Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story Album Review (Music Is Love Throwback)

Hola readers,

I hope you’re all doing well. As we’re right in the throes of summer; indulging in the warmer, longer days and ice-creams (well I am anyway!) I thought I’d share this #throwback of a review with you. This artist has been a big chunk of my summer soundtrack since I discovered him a few years ago, and his music just makes me think of sunny days and holidays.

I first discovered award-winning country singer/songwriter Blake Shelton’s music back in 2012 thanks to the US version of The Voice. I watched the show for two seasons, the first of which featured Juliet Simms (ex Automatic Loveletter) as a contestant – who went on to be one of the final two – and the second saw ex-Hey Monday front woman Cassadee Pope win the hearts of the nation and be crowned winner, under Shelton’s tutorage.

Being that Shelton was the only artist on the judging panel that I hadn’t heard of – the line up at the time being completed by Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine, R’n’B singer/songwriter Cee Lo Green and pop powerhouse Christina Aguilera – I was instantly curious to check out his music. And I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

From the summer sunshine vibe of ‘Honey Bee’, and the somber, sultry feel of ‘Drink On It’, to injecting his alluring country drawl into Dave Barnes’ ‘God Gave Me You’, it’s clear that Shelton’s distinctive vocals are strong, bold and somewhat seductive. It’s no surprise that his work is revered within the country music industry – I instantly fell in love.

Another thing that immediately struck me about Shelton, is his ability to connect with the music and tell a story in an amazingly moving way. You can see this in multiple tracks of his including, romantic love stories ‘Over’ and ‘Austin’, as well as ‘Over You’; a track Shelton co-wrote with his ex-wife Miranda Lambert about the death of his brother – which she lends her vocals to. The song was also covered by ex-Hey Monday frontwoman Cassadee Pope during her time on NBC’s The Voice, which I’ve featured in a previous blog post.

I was going to include them in a ‘Tracks I’m Loving’ at the time, but the more songs I discovered I thought it could come across a bit artist-heavy. So, I decided to save them for a ‘One to Watch’, However, I didn’t think that was quite fitting as Shelton is an established artist in his own right as opposed to up-and-coming.

With his album ‘Based On A True Story’ on the horizon at the time, I jumped straight on ITunes and downloaded it. I then went on to review the album for a university project. At the time I didn’t see the point in duplicating posts across both sites, especially since I was trying to promote them both separately. However, I’ve since had to make the decision to close my other site (you can read about the reason for that here) so I thought uploading it here was way overdue.

 

 

Blake Shelton: Based On A True Story (Album Review)

bs-album-cover

American country artist Blake Shelton released his new album ‘Based on a True Story’ in March this year. Lead single ‘Sure Be Cool If You Did’ reached number one on the country airplay chart after being premiered on New Year’s Day, and was released on ITunes in January.

His eighth studio album is an authentic country album, complete with that trademark drawl that sounds like drizzling honey; smooth and effortless. With the playful chant ‘red red red red red red redneck’, album opener ‘Boys Round Here’ has a beat that you can’t help but bob your head to, and tracks like ‘Small Town Big Time’ are a full on ride of infectious fun; vibrant, jaunty and carefree, though the effects on Shelton’s vocals are unnecessary.

Throughout there are also moments of sentimentality, with slower romantic tracks like ‘Doin’ What She Likes’, ‘Mine Would Be You’, and the nostalgic trip down memory lane, ‘Granddaddy’s Gun’.

Shelton’s bold twang sounds like emotion oozing out of every pore and the intimacy and warmth that comes off of these songs is almost palpable. It’s a great mix of lively, dynamic songs and heartfelt stories, and is an excellent country album. If you’re not someone who’s usually a fan of country music, give it a try, you may surprise yourself.

 

As always, thanks for reading. Do you like Blake Shelton or are you Country music fan in general? Feel free to let me know in a comment. If you’d like to keep up to date with my upcoming posts come and join me on:

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Laurrhie Brouns – Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light (Introducing & EP Review)

Ex The Voice of Holland contestant Laurrhie Brouns shows that this is her time to rise.

©Ilse Wolf

Meet upcoming talent Laurrhie Brouns; if you watch the Holland edition of popular TV talent show ‘The Voice’, chances are that name may already be familiar. However, if like me you’re based in the UK – or any other country for that matter – and haven’t even heard Laurrhie’s name before…Well, that’s all about to change.

©Ilse Wolf

The Haitian/Dutch singer-songwriter released her EP, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’, at the tail-end of 2016, having written it herself as well as acting as co-producer and executive producer of the project. Describing her sound as ‘Eurokpop’, Brouns says, “this is a completely new genre that I created myself.” Fusing together elements from all of her influences, including K-Pop, Pop, R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop, she has created something rather distinctive. Brouns also taught herself to read and write Korean in order to successfully incorporate the K into the K-pop aspect of her sound, which can be heard in snippets throughout the EP; something she describes as “forming a musical bridge between the East and West.”

 

 

As soon as you hit play, it’s apparent that ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ has a futuristic, electronic vibe with K-pop accents, drenched in soul. Add in some beat-driven, addictive choruses and an overall uplifting quality, and you’ll get a feel for where this EP is going.

Opening number ‘Taboo’ kicks things off with a lively and fiercely bold feel; Brouns exudes confidence and is extremely unapologetic – and with vocals like these she has every right to be. Switching between her soulful lower register and her chills-inducing higher register effortlessly, it showcases her range brilliantly and sets the tone for the record.

This assertive attitude can also be heard in second track ‘Collective Upgrade’, during which listeners get their first taste of two languages coming together and how those short accents work within the arrangement. Laurrhie’s powerhouse pipes also come out in full force during the chorus – showing the dynamics of her vocals even more so.

‘Rise’ marries a sense of fiery determination with a soulful chorus and inspiring lyrics, while ‘True North’ slows things down a little and plays up the soul. EP closer ‘Astral Plane’ is the mellowest of the bunch, with things getting progressively softer as the record goes on. The piano-led arrangement, coupled with Laurrhie’s vocals, creates a dreamy sound that brings the EP to an end perfectly.

Overall, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ brings together elements of multiple different genres and blends the sounds together seamlessly – languages and all. The soulful, R&B vocals really compliment the instrumentals whilst having the power to stand out, everything coming together to create something unique with bags of positivity.

Brouns has said that through her original brand of soulful European K-Pop she hopes to “comfort, uplift and inspire”, adding “it is my intention that when you listen to my music it will lift you up…soothe you, bring you joy…move your heart and stir your soul in every way, and activate the evolution of you.”

©YoSoyVideo

As well as the EP, Brouns also has some high-profile performance experience under her belt, including multiple performances at the Amsterdam Arena – in front of 50,000 people, no less – and participating in a club tour across the Netherlands, which saw her share the stage with soulful R&B powerhouse Emeli Sande and Bob Marley’s band The Wailers. In 2012, she also went on to become a contestant on The Voice Of Holland; her powerful rendition of David Guetta’s dance track ‘Without You’ impressing the judges so much that she had her pick of the bunch. During her time in the competition, Brouns’ sensational performances saw her become a favourite among viewers and dubbed ‘the one to watch.’

Alongside this, she has also ventured into other creative avenues; swapping music for the big screen in – Dutch film-maker Lodewicjk Crijns’ 2012 project – ‘Alleen Maar Nette Mensen’ (‘Only Decent People’), in which she played the character of Shandra. Brouns was also accepted into the National Ballett Academy, where she danced in ‘Die Zauberflote’ (The Magic Flute.)

So, what’s next for Laurrhie Brouns? Recently billed by – UK Blog Awards 2017 nominee – Liquid Entertainment Online as their ‘Verge of Stardom’ artist, her talent has been compared to the likes of household names Adele, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys, but with a unique twist. All of this begs the question: how is she not a mainstream artist, gaining regular radio-play and a well-deserved spot amongst the big names in the industry? I could see her sitting quite comfortably alongside the likes of Emeli Sande – an influence you can hear in her vocals. One thing’s for sure though, I can predict only great things for this amazingly talented lady.

 

Favourite tracks:

Taboo
Rise

 

If you’re curious to hear more of Laurrhie’s distinctive sound, you can keep up to date a number of different ways:

Facebook    Twitter    YouTube    Instagram

As well as through her official Website.

‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ is available now from online downloading and streaming services.

 

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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You Me At Six – Night People (Album Review)

You Me At Six are back and look set to reclaim their place at the forefront of British rock music with brand new album Night People.

you-me-at-six-night-people

Three years after the release of their previous full-length offering ‘Cavalier Youth’, rock quintet You Me At Six started 2017 off on the best possible note – unveiling their hotly anticipated, brand new album ‘Night People’ in early January. Unlike the signature pop-punk vibe of the band’s earlier releases, ‘Night People’ carries on the maturity and musicality that we heard on 2014’s ‘Cavalier Youth’, but embraces a darker, heavier tone with a more straight-up rock sound. However, die-hard fans need not fear, as it’s still packed with addictive choruses and powerful songs that pack a punch.

Album opener, and title track, ‘Night People’ sets the tone for the record with its quietly brooding verses and erupting chorus, immediately demonstrating the band’s stylistic change. Similarly, ‘Swear’ and ‘Can’t Hold Back’ are also striking, with a heavier, self-assured vibe – and a little bit of sass thrown in there too. And the boys definitely haven’t lost their flair for writing an insanely addictive hook that – in a live situation – will no doubt whip crowds into a frenzy; songs like ‘Plus One’ and ‘Heavy Soul’ incorporating a flavour of their old style into the mix.

There are also some softer moments amidst the ballsy, fiery tracks, including ‘Take On The World’. An emotional ballad about being there for someone through the darkest of times, its heart and poignancy making it, arguably, one of the most stand-out moments on the record. Album closer ‘Give’ also incorporates this softer sound throughout the verses, but marries it with an explosive chorus, rounding-up the album perfectly. Overall the record is fast paced, as well as being extremely tight and cohesive. It tells a story and takes you on a journey thematically, with each song being a fragment of the bigger picture.

‘Night People’ is another example of You Me At Six’s growth over the years, as people and as artists, and that is reflected in the progression of their sound. It’s certainly grittier than anything we’ve ever heard from them before, and the whole thing sounds incredibly self-assured – like the band are standing up and saying ‘this is who we are.’

Welcome back boys, we’ve missed you.

 

Final verdict:

You Me At Six have been one of my favourite bands since I was seventeen and ‘Night People’ is a firm reminder of why that is. Over the years I’ve seen them grow with their music and, now in my mid-twenties, I have grown up with it. They have yet to make an album that I dislike, and some of my favourite lyrics are embedded in songs on this record. I would encourage everyone to listen to it – start to finish to get the full effect, of course!

 

Favourite tracks:

Plus One
Heavy Soul
Take On The World
Give
(But, honestly, there isn’t one song on this album that I dislike!)

 

As always, thank you for reading. If you’d like to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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My Top Album Picks of 2016

Hello everyone,

If you’re a regular reader around here you may have seen that for the last few years I’ve posted a ‘Top Albums’ list at the beginning of each year to, kind of, round-up the previous one and let you know which releases stayed as firm favourites long after the reviews went up. So, today I thought I’d share my ‘Top Album Picks of 2016’ with you.

The eagle-eyed among you may also have noticed that I uploaded reviews of the following albums already, each of them having been released earlier in the year. To that end, in the interest of not wanting to repeat myself, I’ve included snippets of my previous reviews with a link to the full articles if you’d like to check them out.

Enjoy, and if you’ve heard either of these albums feel free to let me know what you think of them.

 

The Summer Set – Stories For Monday

the summer set stories for monday 2016

Almost a full three years after the release of their most successful album to date, pop-rockers The Summer Set are back, with an offering that looks set to see them continue their ‘Legendary’ high to even bigger and better places. Released on April 1st, ‘Stories For Monday’ is the album that almost wasn’t – with details emerging that the band initially ‘broke-up’ in September 2015 – luckily though, they pulled through, and are back stronger and better than ever before…

To see the full review, click here.

 

Against The Current – In Our Bones

ATC In Our Bones album cover

Two years after the release of their breakthrough EP ‘Infinity’, New Yorkers Against The Current have finally unveiled their debut full-length offering ‘In Our Bones’. Having begun their career online – posting both covers and original material on YouTube – the band are quickly making a name for themselves.

And, rightfully so; with tours with All Time Low and Set It Off under their belts, a headlining world tour to their name, and not to mention taking the stage at this year’s Vans Warped Tour alongside the likes of Issues, Mayday Parade and New Found Glory. The band – made up of frontwoman Chrissy Costanza, lead guitarist Dan Gow, and drummer/keyboardist Will Ferri – look set to take the music world by storm…

To see the full review, click here.

 

I know this list isn’t as long as previous years but, we’re going for quality over quantity :). What albums have you been loving this year? Let me know in a comment if you think there are any that I should check out.

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, be sure to come and join me on:

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Set It Off – Duality (Album Review) #FlashbackFriday

Orchestral pop-rockers Set It Off prove that their sound is anything but one dimensional with sophomore release Duality.

Duality album cover

Having released their debut album ‘Cinematics’ way back in 2012, pop-rockers Set It Off are back with their much anticipated follow-up. Unveiled in October 2014 – two years in the making – ‘Duality’ showcases the progression of the band’s sound, whilst still retaining the sense of theatricality and stylistic approach that is unique to the quartet (albeit a little more refined.)

Album opener ‘The Haunting’ jumps right in with quite a dark vibe, marrying elements of the band’s orchestral sound with an explosive, rock-driven chorus. The song also has a twisted fairytale-esque feel in the theatricality of the lyrics, not to mention bucket-loads of sassiness in Cody Carson’s distinctive vocals. This carries through in tracks such as ‘Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’, featuring William Beckett, with its sneering “this is about you” intro and dark twist on classic nursery rhyme ‘Jack and Jill’.

In amongst the scathing sassiness, there are also lighter moments incorporated into the mix, with some tracks combining elements of other genres. For example, ‘Forever Stuck In Our Youth’, has much more of an overarching funky, pop feel. Opening with a jaunty bass pattern, coupled with Cody Carson’s soulful tone, it’s a definite party track with major hands-in-the-air vibes. Similarly, ‘Ancient History’ is also a fun pop-driven number, with a chorus that will no doubt inspire a mass clap-along from any crowd.

Likewise, ‘Tomorrow’ – featuring singer/songwriter Jason Lancaster – is passionate, anthemic, and thematically reminiscent of one of the band’s earlier songs, ‘Dream Catcher’. In addition, lead single ‘Why Worry’ also possesses an uplifting, cathartic quality. Kicking off with gang-vocal chants, the darker sounding verses are lifted by an eruptive, fun, singalong chorus; all the while detailing the pitfalls of anxiety and asking, ‘why worry at all?

Album closer ‘Miss Mysterious’ is, arguably, one of the most emotionally poignant tracks on the album. Beginning with a piano-led melody, the ballad also incorporates choir-esque vocals in the latter half – again lending to a theatrical feel – but never sounding overdone or cheesy. Referencing other song titles from the album within the closing lyrics, it wraps things up beautifully.

Overall, ‘Duality’ sees Set It Off growing and slowly moving away from the dark, orchestral rock days of ‘Cinematics’ but never straying too far from home; incorporating a number of different styles but always managing to retain that trademark Set It Off vibe which carries throughout the entire record. This is reflected in album title, ‘Duality’ as, as a whole, the record showcases the light and dark of their sound, demonstrating that Set It Off are anything but a pop-rock one trick pony.

 

Favourite tracks:

I’ve had this album for a while so my favourite ones have changed quite a lot, but honestly I love every song on this album!

 

Over the past few months, Set It Off have revealed that their ‘Duality’ era is over, and brand-new third album ‘Upside Down’ will be released on October 7th this year. Following this, the guys unveiled the album’s lead single ‘Uncontainable’, and second single ‘Something New’, in March and June respectively.

The guys are currently trekking around the US as part of the ‘Vans Warped Tour’, which they have played for the second year in a row – but this time on the main stage. They are a brilliant live band so I highly recommend catching their set, at some point, if you can.

To see my previous review of ‘Uncontainable’, click here.

 

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Against The Current – In Our Bones (Album Review)

The young and relentless three-piece prove they’ve got too big for the cage they’ve been locked up in, with debut album ‘In Our Bones’.

ATC In Our Bones album cover

Two years after the release of their breakthrough EP ‘Infinity’, New Yorkers Against The Current have finally unveiled their debut full-length offering ‘In Our Bones’. Having begun their career online –posting both covers and original material on YouTube – the band are quickly making a name for themselves.

And, rightfully so; with tours with All Time Low and Set It Off under their belts, a headlining world tour to their name, and not to mention taking the stage at this year’s Vans Warped Tour alongside the likes of Issues, Mayday Parade and New Found Glory. The band – made up of frontwoman Chrissy Costanza, lead guitarist Dan Gow, and drummer/keyboardist Will Ferri – look set to take the music world by storm.

Released on May 20th, ‘In Our Bones’ is ATC’s first release with record label Fueled By Ramen – home to the likes of Paramore and Panic! At The Disco – after being signed in 2015. Explosive album opener ‘Running With The Wild Things’ kick-starts proceedings and sets the tone for the record; this is a band that won’t be held down. This dark and brooding rock vibe is carried through tracks like ‘Blood Like Gasoline’ and the creepily atmospheric ‘Wasteland’.

Alongside this, there is also a strong pop element in the mix, demonstrated in addictively upbeat numbers ‘Forget Me Now’ and ‘Runaway.’ Acoustic title track ‘In Our Bones’, shows another side to the band’s sound; stripping everything back and letting the music speak for its self. Similarly, there is something beautiful to be found in slower songs such as, haunting ballad ‘Chasing Ghosts’, the inspirational ‘Brighter’, and album closer ‘Demons’ – where, arguably, some of the most standout moments lie.

Overall, ‘In Our Bones’ incorporates a mixture of sounds and vibes, giving a taste of the different facets of Against The Current’s sound. Having said that, everything flows and there are no eyebrow raising moments. This is a brilliant debut full of stellar tracks showcasing what the band are capable of, and I suspect we haven’t heard the best of them yet. “I bet you won’t forget me now”? Couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Favourite Tracks:
Forget Me Now
Chasing Ghosts
Wasteland
Blood Like Gasoline
Roses

‘In Our Bones’ is one of my favourite albums at the moment; I’ve been listening to it non-stop and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s partial to a bit of pop-rock with strong female vocals.
To see my previous single reviews of ‘Chasing Ghosts’ and ‘Blood Like Gasoline’, click here.
To see my previous review of the band’s cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s sophomore hit ‘I Really Like You’, featuring singer-songwriter Max, click here.

 

As always, thank you for reading, I’m blogging every Monday and Thursday throughout July. To keep up to date with my upcoming posts, come and join me on Facebook & Twitter, and to see what else is coming up throughout the rest of this month, click here.

The Summer Set – Stories For Monday (Album Review)

Our favourite Arizona pop-rockers are back with a whole heap of new stories to tell, and not a moment too soon.

the summer set stories for monday 2016

Almost a full three years after the release of their most successful album to date, pop-rockers The Summer Set are back, with an offering that looks set to see them continue their ‘Legendary’ high to even bigger and better places. Released on April 1st, ‘Stories For Monday’ is the album that almost wasn’t – with details emerging that the band initially ‘broke-up’ in September 2015 – luckily though, they pulled through, and are back stronger and better than ever before.

Full of killer tracks, ‘Stories For Monday’ showcases the maturity – both lyrically and musically – that we heard on previous releases; marrying the heart and sentimentality of ‘Everything’s Fine’ with the cheekier party vibe of ‘Legendary’ perfectly, while adding a dash of vulnerability to the mix.

As opposed to the ‘boy-likes-girl’ theme we’re so used to, this release feels much more real and raw. Although still there in essence in the mass clap-along sounds of ‘All my friends’ – which won us over with its Kurt Cobain/Nirvana references – as well as poignant almost-ballad ‘Jean Jacket’. However, there seems to be more of an overarching focus on life and sense-of-self, tracks like lead single ‘Figure Me Out’, ‘The Night Is Young’ and ‘Wasted’, showing a lot more emotional depth. But, never fear, their signature pop-rock party vibe is still entwined within the sound, demonstrated in ‘Change Your Mind’, anti-love song ‘Missin’ You’ and the anthemic ‘All In’ – albeit a little more refined.

This is, arguably, the most personal they’ve ever gotten, giving listeners a look behind the party and into the band; their growth people as well as artists. I’m so glad that ‘Stories For Monday’ wasn’t the soundtrack to their demise and they figured everything out because if this album is anything to go by, it’s certainly not all downhill from here.

 

Favourite Tracks:
The Night Is Young
All My Friends
Change Your Mind
Wasted

Check out my single reviews of tracks from the album below:

Click here to see my review of the album’s lead single ‘Figure Me Out.’
Click here to see my reviews of ‘Missin’ You’ and ‘Jean Jacket.’
Click here to see my live review of The Summer Set at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms on their recent ‘Stories For Monday’ UK tour, complete with vlog footage.

As always thank you for reading, and I hope you go and give this album a listen. 🙂 I’m blogging every Monday and Thursday throughout July. To keep up to date with my upcoming posts, come and join me on Facebook & Twitter, and to see what else is coming up throughout the rest of this month, click here.