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|Written by Mike Cullen|
|Sunday, 18 July 2010 00:00|
Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Five years is a long time to wait for a new Broken Social Scene album. Sure we had the Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning "solo" albums that BSS alumni performed on, but a right proper Broken Social Scene album hasn't been seen since 2005. It was well worth the wait.
As I have commented in previous reviews of the songs "World Sick," "Forced to Love," and "All in All," there is a sense that this is the band's most commercial release to date. Yet, instead of selling out artistically as other indie outfits have over the years, Broken Social Scene manages to successfully walk that tightrope between artistic genius and commercial mediocrity. At slightly over an hour, the album manages to incorporate nearly every band member past and present (including vocals by Feist, Amy Millan of Stars, and Emily Haines of Metric), and at the appropriate times is both a chill and full-on rock album. This is seriously BSS at its best, and at the end of the album you end up forgiving the group for taking so long to release new material.
Broken Social Scene - Lo-fi for the Dividing Nights EP
Comprised of mostly instrumental tunes, this ten-track EP -- that was only available for online pre-order -- gives something extra to the fans without really giving them anything. Considering the length of the EP, the band could have spliced the instrumentals onto the album itself and had a really great, 24-track mega-album. Instead they're packaged into an EP where they will be largely forgotten on my iPod, and that's too bad because these songs deserve far better.
Lady Gaga - The Remix
Let's assess: in the roughly two years since Lady Gaga burst onto the scene she has released two albums, one EP, gone on three major tours, and is now releasing a remix album. And -- with recent reports alleging she's recording while on the road - there's no way anyone can claim that this young woman is resting on her laurels. While The Fame Monster may have seemed like a quick cash-grab in a way, The Remix appears to be a true ‘thank-you' to the legions of fans LG has. But therein lies the problem with this release.
Remix and live albums tend to appeal only to an already-established fan base. Live albums can perhaps occasionally capture a new fan or draw a casual fan deeper, but a remix album? Remixes, and by extension remix albums, do not generally create new followers. They serve as a promotional tool to keep rabid fans (like myself) quiet until the next full-length release comes out. We're experiencing that in-between period now.
The Remix is itself a stellar compilation. There is some duplicated material from previous single releases, but still enough brand-new stuff -- such as remixes of "Dance in the Dark," "Eh Eh (Nothing Else I can Say)," and "Alejandro," along with edits of "Telephone" - and a few rare offerings (finally North America gets the Pet Shop Boys remix of "Eh Eh") to satisfy the musical needs of most fans. It's actually all-in-all a well-rounded collection of remixes from albums, the singles, and other album tracks alike. Casual fans can skip this release and not miss out; for any of Gaga's ‘little monsters' this collection is obviously essential.
Various Artists - Sex and the City 2 OST
One of the best things about Sex and the City during its six-season run -- and first silver screen adaptation -- was the music. Sure, the four leading ladies were the main focus, but so too was the city of New York as well as the music selections. Borrowing from '60s and '70s fare (with heavy emphasis on disco), the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte seemed strangely timeless despite what we would consider a dated genre. The music was updated a bit for the first movie, but managed to maintain its charm.
The soundtrack to the second movie is like a red-headed stepchild (sorry to all those red-headed stepchildren out there). There are a few gems in this compilation including a new track by Dido, and a surprisingly good cover of Blondie's "Rapture" by Alicia Keys, but these are largely overshadowed by the likes of Liza Minnelli covering "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" and Cyndi Lauper's "True Colours" (which, while good, has been around forever and likely appears in too many movies/television shows to count).
I'm generally not a fan of soundtracks precisely due to this very mixed-bag-of-nuts feeling, but this one actually made me cringe a little. Even the use of Alicia Key's "Empire State of Mind" seems forced, contrived, and a blatant attempt to remain relevant. As a long-time fan of the show, I hope this album is not an indication of what the movie will be like.
Jay-Z Ft. Mr. Hudson - "Young Forever"
I know that this track has been out for a good six months at this point. I'm breaking a rule by reviewing something ‘old,' but this song deserves the belated accolades. I have to give Jay-Z a lot of credit as both a rapper and an artist. For someone who is not a fan of rap in the least, I find Jay-Z to be absolutely brilliant. He remains one of the most innovative and yet pure artists around. He will play with new sounds but thankfully it is his voice we hear (not some auto-tuned version). He covers and samples in ways that are both cutting edge, yet stay true to the original source material; he has become a master music-manipulator, crossing over from rap to rock and back again.
I have to admit that when I heard Jay-Z had sampled Alphaville's "Forever Young" on a track for his latest album, The Blueprint 3, I was a bit skeptical. We are talking about a classic new wave song. Sure new wave and rap have shared some musical space before (Blondie, anyone?), but this seemed almost sacrosanct in a way. So, on a whim I purchased the song off of iTunes to see for myself.
It's BRILLIANT! "Forever Young" as a song is used without being molested, instead highlighting the vocal chops of Mr. Hudson (a little-known R&B/pop artist from the UK), and showcases Jay-Z's abilities not only as a song writer but also as a rapper. As morbid as it sounds, I would want this played at my funeral. For Jay-Z -- who is going through a bit of a renaissance period as an artist -- "Forever Young" is one of the huge highlights from The Blueprint 3.