Hey you guys, today is a pretty good day for music (at least the music I listen to). Some of my favorite contemporary artists are releasing albums or have released albums recently, so I figured I'd give you guys a quick run-down of my reviews. Let me know what you thought about these sonic goodies!
Res - Black.Girls.Rock! (J-Graded - A)
It's been 8 years since Res burst on the scene with her video for "They-Say Vision" and changed my musical world with her unique blend of neo-soul, rock, hip-hop with some reggae vibes for good measure. Her sophomore album was recorded for Geffen Records, but never released... until now! You can't hold a true artist down, man! Not only has Res taken matters into her own hands, but she's made the album available as a FREE download on her website. So there's absolutely no reason why you can't go check it out. Trust me, you won't regret it. The mood is overall more chill than her debut. Acoustic guitars abound, and Res's raspy vocals have gained a more smooth, seasoned flavor. Yet, the grit and self-awareness that made her stand out on her debut are still in full force. If you're a fan from How I Do, or you've never heard of Res, take a listen. Again, it's FREE!
Leona Lewis - Echo (J-Graded: B+)
Leona is one of the contemporary voices to watch, with comparisons to Mariah, Whitney and even Toni. While she doesn't quite have the clout of any of the above divas, the "I'm just a girl who wants to sing pretty songs" approach is pretty endearing to me. With help from frequent collaborator Ryan Tedder (frontman of OneRepublic) and other notables, Leona has crafted a solid, cohesive pop album.
Norah Jones - The Fall (J-Graded C+)
Norah has been accused of being "boring" several times over, but for me, this is the first album of hers that I found to be a snoozer. Well... let me take that back... to be fair, I like this album much better than Norah's last effort Not Too Late, which I thought was a little too helter-skelter; however, I just couldn't get into this album that much. On the plus side, you can tell that Norah is experimenting with an edgier, more guitar-oriented sound. Also, the songs on the album grew much more enjoyable toward the end, and with collaborators like Ryan Adams and James Poyser, you CANNOT deny the musicianship on The Fall. I'll put it like this: After a moderately enjoyable first listen to this album, I just don't find myself inclined to give it a second listen.
John Mayer - Battle Studies (J-Graded A-)
John Mayer follows up one of my favorite albums Continuum with the appropriately-titled Battle Studies. You would swear half these songs are about Jennifer Aniston or Jessica Simpson or some other starlet he's been connected with, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter. John is one heck of a musician, blending blues, soul, and light-rock into the (mostly) radio-ready stew that is this collection of 11 songs.
Carrie Underwood - Play On (J-Graded - B)
Carrie was not my favorite performer on American Idol, but since her victory she has blossomed into one of my favorite country-pop queens. Her musical stylings a la Martina McBride/Faith Hill are in tip top form on her recently-released third album. From the brassy "Cowboy Cassanova" to the heartwrenching "Mama's Song", Carrie comes across as very secure about her place in the musical world and the real world as well. Play on, Carrie, play on...
OneRepublic - Waking Up (J-Graded C+)
Now as much as I love this band, I wasn't floored by this album. HOWEVER, you can definitely sense their growth as musicians. They experiment with orchestration and compositions that segue from one song to another; toward the end they even escape from the radio-ready time length of 3 - 4 minutes, one song clocking in at 6:07 seconds. If you're a 1R fan, pick this one up. If you're just a casual listener, then preview the album and download (LEGALLY) what you like.