I have been wanting to do some more music reviews for a bit, but I such a backlog of quality stuff that I decided I would try to work through my library of iTunes Store purchases and do micro-reviews. I've pretty much gotten new music exclusively by buying it on iTunes for the past year (and a few podcasts), so it may take a while to work through it all.
Anything in italics is a single track, and anything in bold is an album.
Don't Let it Bring you Down by Annie Lennox
I grabbed this song after hearing it playing in the background in the movie American Beauty. It mostly grabbed me because it was a cover of a Neil Young song that I listened to a huge number of times when I was younger (for example, I was given the cd containing it by everyone else in my immediate family one Christmas).
I want this song to be good, and it certainly has good elements (mostly Anne Lennox's singing), but the production is a masterpiece of the eighties, which--unfortunately--means its a failure in any other decade.
Vertically Challenged by Lady Sovereign
I first ran into Lady Sov by catching the tail end of the music video for Random on IMF (the International Music Feed, a satellite tv channel that carries music videos). It was great. Sort of, I mean, I was pretty sure it was great, but I had only heard the last twenty seconds so I wasn't really that sure.
So I went looking for the music, and it took about a year for her music to penetrate into America (and now its penetrated pretty heavily, for worse or better). The album is a bit weak, but Random (Menta Remix) [Featuring Riko] is a killer track. Undoubtedly the best part is the rapper Riko contributes to the track by being recorded while singing into a phone while serving time in jail. That said, I heard a dj mix where the mix segues into a new song around 2:36, and that is indeed a more appropriate place for the song to end. The last two minutes don't contribute much.
The second best song would be A Little Bit of Shh (Smallstars Remix by Adrock), which is fairly enjoyable. All over, I think that Lady Sovereign isn't a particularly versatile rapper, but has gotten quite good at delivering her predictable product... over and over.
The High Road by JoJo
I debated not even acknowledging I purchased this album, I guess its mildly embarrassing. The cd is consistent, but suffers from not having many outstanding tracks. Too Little, To Late got a lot of radio airplay, and its probably the most polished piece.
JoJo's singing voice is genuinely impressive, and at times she ventures into what Fergie once called "Raptalking", but unlike Fergie, JoJo isn't bad at it. I think what kills most JoJo songs is that they are extremely vocal centric, and the lyrics are dull.
I think this album was pushed out because JoJo's handlers were afraid of her losing the buzz she generated with her first handful of hits. This seems like a reasonable worry, since she hasn't ever been popular enough to escape from her fan base of preteens and people who listen to too much pop music. I think JoJo will have trouble escaping the image she has created for herself, and will have trouble moving forward musically until her lyrics move beyond generic love and woe.
Ultra Blue by Utada Hikaru
I'm not overly in tune with the Japanese pop scene, but Utada is one of the two artists I tend to keep up with. This is a really great album. There isn't a single track on this album that isn't good. Some of the standouts are This Is Love, Nichiyo no Asa, and Passion, but its pretty much all good.
The production is varied and strong, and Utada has a great singing voice. The lyrics aren't particularly deep, but their mostly in Japanese so they feel deeper since I only partially understand...
Alright Still by Lily Allen
One catchy song, one funny music video, a lot of filler. I like pieces of this album, which has some varied production and Lily is a passable singer. The lyrics are also interesting or fun much of the time. Really, my complaint is mainly that two thirds of the tracks are bland and undeserving of listeners' ears. Littlest Things brings me some strange amusement as angsty hateful Lily gets a bit weepy.
Put your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae
A really pleasant and happy song. Fun lyrics, good singing, well suited production. This is a good, relaxing song.
Shock Value by Timbaland
There are a ton of songs here, but none of them are really great. A lot of them are definitely interesting, but don't push many boundaries. Miscommunication and Apologize are my two favorites, and are pretty strong tracks.
Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
A great track from my youth. Progressive never gets old, at least for me. I don't know if this song is actually good, but it does it for me. Would it do it for me if it wasn't the music of my childhood? I don't really know, and I'm not going to worry about it too much.
Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
I like this album by Amy Winehouse. I like her jazzy style on it, and the tracks are pretty fun. When I first heard this album, it was something fresh and new. It was something I needed to hear.
Now its lost a bit of its magic since I have been sated on her style and found that its magic doesn't last quite as long as I might have hoped. Rehab, You Know I'm No Good, and Me & Mr. Jones (best lyric: "What kind of fuckery is this?") are all good.
Bruce Cockburn: Anything Anytime Anywhere by Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Cockburn is in the vying for my favorite artist, so a collection of his best music (excluding the last few albums, presumably some kind of contractual concerns) was pretty appealing for me. The The Coldest Night of the Year remix is one of my favorite tracks, and is an excellent song. Its a solid release. The new material (My Beat and Anything Anytime Anywhere) isn't particularly strong, but that seems to be the trend for new material on compilation albums.
The Evolution by Ciara
A decent album with a few great songs. Like a Boy and That's Right are two of the good danceable songs, but there are a number of interesting slower songs as well. If I did it over again, I might just grab the those two songs, but C.R.U.S.H. and Can't Leave 'Em Alone are both songs I enjoy. Actually, I enjoy most of the songs, almost all of them have at least one redeeming feature, and most of them are danceable. (Side note: it turns out that danceable is a sufficiently real word to be in spellcheck. Amazing.)
I'm a Flirt (Main Version) by R.Kelly feat T.I. & T-Pain
I probably shouldn't like this song as much as I do, but its a great song. Horrific, degrading, immature... yeah... all those things. In spades. But its still great. I like where R. Kelly is going with his music. Its kind of surreal, and totally refusing to acknowledge any sense of reality or standards outside of the music itself.
Kelly and T.I. both work the (simple but good) beat well. T-Pain has strange sing-songy delivery, but it works out pretty well here. It's impossible to chose a best lyric from this song, there are so many amazing options. Perhaps:
She be calling me daddy,
and I be calling her mommie.
She be calling you Kelly,
when your name is Tommy.
I don't know what y'all be
think'in when you bring them
Need I remind you that I am
the kind of R&B?
Do you know what that means?
That means if you love your chick,
don't bring her to the VIP,
'cause I might leave with your chick.
I know its wrong. I know. But its still amazing. And with that I'll end this first installment of Music-From-Itunes here. Chronologically we've worked up to somewhere around June 2007, and we're through 136 of 841 tracks...