Muse: “Dead Inside” (Single Review) – “Prince meets Depeche Mode meets Radiohead meets U2”

Artist: Muse

Album : Drones

Label: Warner Bros., Helium-3

Release Date: March 23, 2015

By: Joseph Kurbanov

Muse return to 2015, with a single sounding incredibly unexpected based on previous descriptions of the album outlined by the band-members. The song details the internal decay of the human spirit after a relationship has failed, leaving the participants lifeless and literally “dead inside.”

The single is an interesting beginning to a new album, with it’s darkly minimalistic and electronic vibe. Matthew Bellamy recalls the vocals of Freddie Mercury and Bono to howl about ‘magic in your eyes/on the outside you’re ablaze and alive, but you’re dead inside.” Muse_2015_press_shot

The track is Prince meets Depeche Mode meets Radiohead meets U2. I think Muse have created a new genre called gothic groove with this track. Although the track is very dark and minor in tonality it has quite a few radio-friendly moments such as the catchy gang-vocal refrain; “dead inside,” in addition to the VI-IV-I-V chord progression breakdown in the bridge followed by a Bono-esque vocal melody, catchy enough to hit the mega-airwaves.

Muse is clearly trying to play off the success of its former single, “Madness” from The 2nd Law, which was also heavily electronic and minimal, although generally more uplifting in nature.

As of now, Muse has only released a lyric video, however, an instagram video has surfaced revealing the official video featuring professional dancers and competitors on So You Think You Can Dance, Kathryn McCormick and Will Wingfield.

Fans of Muse, are heavily anticipating the new album, Drones, which the band has promised to be heavy, guitar-driven, and three-piece oriented.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color – “Roots Music Modernized”

Artist: Alabama Shakes

Album: Sound & Color

Label: ATO (U.S.), MapleMusic (Canada), Rough Trade (U.K.)

Release Date: April 21, 2015

By: Joseph Kurbanov

A furious streak, with startling rawness in her delivery, is possessed by Brittany Howard and she can really raise the roof. Back in the day, when people thought about Alabama Shakes, the first and probably the only thing that came to their mind was Brittany Howard. The musicians on the band hadn’t taken the music anyplace interesting even though they knew everything about Memphis soul.

However, a couple of years on the road has made all the difference, and what a difference it’s been. The shakes with Sound & Color have internationalized their influence by owning up to their music. This time around, the band manages to shed new light on every influence it draws from, even though you’ll notice phrasing and licks being modeled after classic songs.

With this new album, Alabama Shakes have pushed things higher with the musicians matching Brittany Howard’s intensity. There are certain similarities between Alabama shakes’ debut album and this one but highly addictive tracks like “Don’t Wanna Fight” give those unexpected swerves. Alabama_Shakes_-_Sound_&_Color_album_cover

Compared to their previous albums where you felt like you were just going through a collection, Sound & Color has more realness, practicality, and grit attached to it. A dusty, warped as well as clear and lifelike feel is provided by producers Sara Watkins, Blake Mills, Sky Ferreira and a host of session musicians. It’s Roots Music modernized.

With each player committing impressive performances to tape, the band itself plays a big part too. The voice of leading lady Brittany Howard is of course a vital aspect for the album’s success but the music is dragged back and given its laid-back style by drummer Steve Johnson with his signature down tempo groove.

The creative powers on Sound & Color are shown by Alabama Shakes much like the Black Crowes did on their sophomore effort. The song front woman Brittany Howard sings on the album’s title track “I want to touch a human being” connects spiritually with audiences. You’ll feel like you are in the presence of four human beings actually making music in a room or feel like you’re making it yourself while listening.

With this follow up, this album will definitely be an important summer play…

Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late: “Doesn’t Get Better”

Artist: Drake

Album: If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

Label: OVO, Young Money, Cash Money, Republic, Aspire

Release Date: February 13, 2015

By: Joseph Kurbanov

Well, it’s quite astonishing that all 17 tracks on the album have made the billboard top 100; shows just how potent Drake is; that he puts on a full body of work and every song is like a single.

How exciting was the fact that it dropped out of nowhere. I remember scrolling through my Instagram feed and everybody’s posting “if you’re reading this, it’s too late”. I see the album cover like 50 times, go to iTunes, and there it is. It almost felt like it was my birthday (it was my birthday).Drake_-_If_You're_Reading_This_It's_Too_Late

I would say Energy is one of my top three songs from this album. Drake’s never been known to be one of the more “lyrical” rappers out there, but on songs like Energy, he comes up with new and innovative ways to thank his haters, to talk about them and how they helped him be successful. Now that’s what all rappers do; they talk about their haters.

It doesn’t get better than the beats on this album. I love the melody on Know Yourself: the fourth track on the album. It’s such an anthem, with a hypnotic beat. Another notable song on the album is Company, featuring Travis Scott. I love the fact that Drake reached out to Travis Scott. He hasn’t really hit the mainstream as hard as other rappers out there but his beats are awesome. Travis brought his style and his warm and deep synthesizers to this track and Drake’s voice floats perfectly on it.

Every song on this album is memorable in its own way. Let’s see what Drake has in store for his upcoming album…

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love: “Background Noise”

Artist: Sleater-Kinney

Album: No Cities to Love

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: January 20, 2015

By: Joseph Kurbanov

This was without question one of the most highly anticipated records of the year and definitely the most highly anticipated of January. Provided you don’t know it already, this is their first album in a decade and that sort of break can throw a band off and massively change their sound.

Now, the band was looking for ways to announce that they’ve come back. The first track absolutely does that; it’s hard, it’s fast, it has great energy to it, and it’s hard not to get into it. It’s not just noise – the melody is as clear as ever and it reaffirms what this trio has always been best at: Making a ton of noise, giving it a great punch, but always concentrating on having a good melody.

The next two songs on the album kind of sound the same and they really melt together but maybe not in the best way. I actually didn’t notice the song had changed and I had to go back and check as I thought it was a weird six minute jam. They don’t really come across as two different songs; in fact, I really didn’t like how those two songs came together.No_Cities_to_Love_cover

Next is the title track, which, compared to the two songs that preceded it, has no way around it. It’s kind of a letdown, it’s a bit boring, it just really never locks in and does whatever the band were trying to do with this song. Also, having all the celebrities in a video doesn’t necessarily make a song a great one. Honestly, that’s just a precursor to what the bulk of the center part of this album is: boring, bland and really doesn’t go anywhere. So many times they’ve gone for edgy or a stripped down sound which just sort of sits there and never gets to a climax.

This is epitomized by the song “Give Me Love” which is an incredibly painful song to listen too. The song sounds artificial and forced to the point that it almost hurts. I almost forget the blatant rip off of Lita ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” that happens about halfway through this album.

However, the last quarter of this album  matches well with the first few songs, they really lock in well together and then there’s that great energy again. Overall, it turned into background noise in terms of music and vocals.

I really wanted to love this album but it never happened for me. This album was lukewarm at best. Basically, it’s a “borrow it” album for fans and a “bin it” one for non-fans.

Tove Lo – Queen of the Clouds: “Catchy Montage of Sex, Love, and Drugs”

Artist: Tove Lo

Album: Queen of the Clouds

Label: Island

Release Date: September 24, 2014

By: Joseph Kurbanov

If you’ve heard “Habits (Stay High)” on the radio, then you were probably wondering who was behind the airy and mysterious vocals on the track.

27 year-old Swedish singer and songwriter, Tove Lo hails from none other than Stockholm, Sweden (surprise, surprise). She gained attention from her single “Habits,”, and a boost of major success from a remix of the track (“Stay High”) by producers Hippie Sabotage.Tove_Lo_-_Queen_of_the_Clouds

Tove Lo has writing credits for Cher Lloyd and Lea Michele from and she’s very well known amongst Sweden’s arrangement of pop writers. Inevitably, Tove Lo is linked to mega hit-maker, Max Martin. Upon listening to her very well constructed pop songs it comes as no surprise to discover that she graduated from none other than Stockholm’s Rytmus music school; the breeding ground for pop hits. Sweden has had quite a history with American pop.

Tove Lo has a nick for being tongue-in-cheek in her songs. She talks about getting drunk, high, going to sex clubs, and looking for guys in the songs “Like Em Young” and “Stay High.” Most of her lyric is reaction to relationships gone awry. Somehow, she still manages to hold the throne as “Queen of the Clouds.” Apparently, “If you love me right/We fuck for life,” she croons on “Talking Body;” a song with a hook so catchy, it’ll stick to your shoe longer than gum.

Catchy choruses, dubby electro globs, atmospheric sweeps, epic drum samples, and sensual vocals create a montage of sex, love, and drugs that is “Queen of the Clouds.” By the time you finish the album, you’ll be in the clouds right there with her. Let’s see if this Swede lasts the charts…



Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon: “Piano and the Grainy Voice of Innocence”

Artist: Tobias Jesso Jr.

Album: Goon

Label: True Panther Sounds

Release Date: March 17, 2015

By: Joseph Kurbanov

Tobias Jesso Jr. is not your average 29 year-old Canadian musician from Vancouver. Originally the bassist for the band, the Sessions, Tobias became the bassist for teen pop singer, Melissa Cavatti before releaseing his debut album, Goon. His singles, “True Love,” “Hollywood,” and “How Could You Babe,” have garnered much attention, especially the latter.

The album features a tranquil touch of simplicity surrounded by McCartney-esque melodies against the swaying rhythms of major piano chords. Jesso incorporates the warm sounds of Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, and Tom Waits and creates a organic musical gem.Goon

In, “How Could You Babe,” the slow, hesitant verses build tension up until the epic breadth of the chorus. Jesso sings with a natural voice crack in his upper register in cry of desperation. The songs “Hollywood” and “Leaving LA,” reveal Jesso’s history as a nomadic musician in Los Angeles. The songs are unified by the sense of instability in love (makes sense, since the album was written after the end of a relationship).

Throughout the album it becomes evident that the idea of heartbreak revolves around the necessity of music to heal these pains. Jesso convinces us that heartbreak is worth it for the pain-pleasure paradox of his music. He is a wounded soldier, observing the battlefield after the war called love.

Jesso is like a young Elton John, where his words are the soundtrack to his music. Amongst the infinite layers of production we hear in modern music, it is both refreshing and relieving to sit back and listen to a simple statement of humans’ most common yet infinitely intriguing emotions. All is understood when there’s a piano and the grainy voice of innocence.



TIDAL Music is No Tsunami Yet

By: Joseph Kurbanov


Earlier this month, Jay-Z and friends (Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, the list goes on…) took part in the official re-launch of the music streaming service; Tidal. The subscription based streaming service offers a $9.99 rate for standard resolution of audio streaming, becoming a viable alternative for Spotify. However, an attractive alternative is the “Tidal Hi Fi,” option for $20 a month, offering CD quality (uncompressed) music streaming.

Jay-Z the super music mogul intends to flip the industry on its head with this new service. Tidal has been designed from beginning to be the ultimate and universal music resource for fans of hi-fidelity music, offering playlists and recommendations curated by experienced musicologists and journalists on top of 75,000 music videos.Tidal-high-fidelity-music-streaming

TIDAL is portrayed as a “platform owned by artists” with a goal “to re-establish the value of music.” Alicia Keys explained, “We want to create a better service and experience for fans and artists. Our mission goes beyond commerce and technology.” The idea of this artist-owned streaming company reflects its plan to pay almost double to artists, songwriters, and producers. However, the most plays benefit of course. Therefore, the money is greater for big name artists (uhemm… Jay Z, etc.) We can’t expect our indie electro-folk artists to get excited about the prospect of more income.

On the darker side of things, TIDAL is now opposing at least three heavy rival music applications that have potential for profits and are experiencing a strong surge in momentum (especially after attacking campaigns made by TIDAL). The CEO of TIDAL needs to discover a way to clean up after the “let-down” March launch and shift Tidal in a crowded market… which is NOT making consumers feel sorry for big moneymakers or giving competition more credibility.

The question remains; is TIDAL a fallacy?


Adam Levine to debut new show, Songland, as a “new discovery model”

By: Joseph Kurbanov


With some huge success as a judge on the “The Voice,” Adam Levine was able to create a brand of himself, and branch from the former band image of Maroon 5, with fragrances, fashion lines, and multiple endorsements. We saw “the World’s Sexiest Man,” make his acting debut in “Begin Again” and “American Horror Story.” The new trend seems to involve musicians focused in all avenues but music. However, This new industry model brings a new discovery model. It seems Adam Levine yearns to be the catalyst of the evolving industry.  The Voice - Season 3

“The Voice” features self-contained singers with everyday sob stories to gain a pseudo-sympathetic reaction from the audience. During some countless “blind” auditions, the focus remains on the quality, originality, and prowess of the voice unhindered by aesthetic driven judgements. Unfortunately, the top ten singers and even the winners, seem to implode from the popularity resulting in a fast decline from the eyes of the people. In part, the focus remains on cover songs as oppose to originals driving the viewers to focus on delivery rather than persona; contrary to the egocentric nature of the performing arts.

The executive producer of “The Voice,” Audrey Morrissey and Adam Levine are joining  Grammy Award-winning songwriter Dave Stewart on a series entitled, Songland. The show is intended to relay the importance of the songwriter to the industry. Songwriters have the potential for many revenue streams from publishing, as oppose to artists, who rely on sales and live music. The show undoubtedly will unveil the relic of the songwriter; the hit song.

Of course, the series will feature working common folk with dirt-to-gold tales who will pitch their songs to high-end producers and artists. Time will tell if Songland will be a worthy contender of The Voice.


Hozier – Hozier, “Howling Polyphony of Somber Greatness”

Artist: Hozier

Album: Hozier

Label: Island Records and Rubyworks Records

Release Date: 19 September 2014

By: Joey Kurbanov

When “Take Me to Church” hit the airwaves, the Pop game was changed for a minute. The dark, somber, yet meaningful bluesy-gospel chant offers a criticism of the Church for its view of homosexuality.Hozier_album

Hozier is the eponymous debut studio album from singer and songwriter, Hozier. The album holds some tracks from Hozier’s preceding two EPs, Take Me to Church and From Eden. The album flings Biblical metaphors at us, but with a sense of underlying irony.

Growing up on Muddy Waters, Billie Willie Johnson, Tom Waits, Pink Floyd, and Nina Simone, its clear that the Irish 24-year old singer-songwriter mixes the likes of the greats with great care. With these sounds, Hozier creates a howling polyphony of somber greatness. The sonic differences of rich Gospel choirs with distorted and sludgy guitars build up a chilling sound consistent throughout his debut.

While carefully flaunting his vocal prowess on “From Eden,” Hozier is heard “slithering” to a lover’s door, while on the spiritual hymn, “Work Song,” “No grave can hold” his “body down, he’ll “crawl home to her.”

Van Morrison was the Irishman who gave us African-American music with Celtic overtones and now Hozier delivers slinky R&B with dirty and bluesy grunge.

Hozier’s storytelling is very liquid, incorporating romantic realism and struggle rather than bubblegum heartbreak. The album becomes a soulful journey of seduction, spirituality, and grief.

Be wary, if our Irishman does not shy away from histrionic orchestral sweeps and choirs, we can only imagine what will come next…




Father John Misty – I love you, Honeybear, “Folk with a sense of humour”

Artist: Father John Misty

Album: I Love You, Honeybear

Label: Sub Pop

Release Date: February 10, 2015

By: Joey Kurbanov

Father John Misty understands the art of connecting spirituality with, well, almost everything. Raised with a “culturally oppressive” Baptist, Episcopal, and Pentecostal hybrid upbringing, he naturally has much to write about.

In his debut album, Fear Fun, the music was vast while hauntingly intimate, utilizing folk-like instrumentation. Swirling strings, steel guitars, and choirs recall a Wagnerian farm chant championing ideas of religion, sex, and war with absurd directness and satire. Fjm-iloveyouhoneybear

On the second Father John album; I Love you, Honey Bear, our Father writes about his love, Emma Garr. It’s with his better half, he celebrates Satanic Christmas Eve on Chateau Marmont. The album’s depiction of love is far-fetched but humorous. Father John Misty recounts “Mascara, blood, ash and cum” as the pinnacle of his relationship. Unfortunately, I Love you, Honey Bear, proves musically insignificant, riding the sonic formula of its predecessor. The track “Bored in the U.S.A.,” proves to be the album’s highest point, with an airy and intricate melody hovering over a heightened sense of humor. I Love you, Honey Bear is melodically liberal but fails to captivate due to the lack of central “hooks” and the poor repetition of harmonic and rhythmic structure. Lyrically, the album is witty and cynical in all it’s glory, providing a refreshing perspective on Romance. Still worth a listen.