pripyat by sibuckle
pripyat a photo by sibuckle on Flickr.

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Pripyat by sibuckle
Pripyat a photo by sibuckle on Flickr.
pripyat by sibuckle
pripyat a photo by sibuckle on Flickr.
 by k/hálft noise
a photo by k/hálft noise on Flickr.

Track list:
1. Great DJ
2. That’s Not My Name
3. Fruit Machine
4. Traffic Light
5. Shut Up and Let Me Go
6. Keep Your Head
7. Be the One
8. We Walk
9. Impacilla Carpisung
10. We Started Nothing

Release date: 16th May, 2008
Number of albums to date: 1st studio
Style: Pop, Indie
Language: English

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The Ting Tings is made up of English singer-songwriter Katie White and Jules De Martino who plays the drums, guitar and helps with programming. They formed after meeting at Leeds University and creating an “unintentional band” simply for the fun of it.

The Ting Tings’ We Started Nothing is a fine blend of electronic pop and indie music that is lightly mixed to create a clean cut album that never seems overbearing. However, this is not without its consequences. While for the most part of it The Ting Tings seem to engage the audience with their upbeat tunes, there are certain times when their music simply isn’t captivating and there is nothing to distinguish them from the crowd. The best examples of these are Traffic Light, Impacilla Carpisung and We Started Nothing.

That’s not to say there aren’t any good songs on the album – there’s quite a few actually! Great DJ proves to be a catchy opener even if musically and lyrically it’s pretty simple. That’s Not My Name stands out simply because of its catchy (and sometimes annoying) lyrics that mainly consist of “they call me Stacey, they call me Jane. That’s not my name, that’s not my name.” Shut Up and Let Me Go, like the rest of the decent songs on the album, gets its charm out of its catchy melody. Keep Your Head continues this trend. We Walk is slightly different by the fact that’s its of slower pace and could be considered the album’s only ‘ballad’ even though for the majority it does not resemble a ballad. The lyrics are slightly more advanced than the majority of the other songs on the album, although are extremely repetitive especially towards the end when it repeats “when nothing makes you feel good”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing seeing as it, once again, rather catchy.

Katie White’s vocals aren’t all that great, her slight English accent is the only distinguishable feature, they can get weak and times and Katie doesn’t have a very broad range, however her vocals seem to do the job for this type of music. Jules De Martino vocals are featured briefly throughout some songs – his aren’t much better, but they do provide some variety.

We Started Nothing isn’t a bad album, but it’s not anything life changing. Some songs are catchy and others are bland so it’s a bit of a hit or miss, really. The Ting Tings have produced a good effort for their debut album by creating memorable melodies and lyrics and I’ll be interested to see how they progress in the future.

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Sounds…

like the epitome of a British, indie pop band.

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Overall Rating

 Three stars

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Tracklist:
1. One And On
2. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI
3. Apple And Cinnamon
4. Taking My Money Back
5. This Is The One (Crying Like A Child)
6. Automatic Part II
7. Dirty Desire
8. Poppin’
9. Come Back To Me
10. Me Muero

Release date: 14th March, 2009
Number of albums to date: 2nd English album
Style: Pop, R&B
Langauge: English

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Five years and three albums later Utada Hikaru releases her second English album under the family name of Utada. The half decent opening of On And On gives us a taste of the Americanised lyrics splattered throughout the album. Arrangements throughout are relatively straight-forward especially for Utada, whose previous English album Exodus is known for its experimental edge. Interesting arrangements can be seen in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence – FYI, which is a remake of the Ryuichi Sakamoto’s instrumental song Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Taking My Money Back, Dirty Desire, Poppin’ and Me Meuro which when translated into Spanish means “I’m dying”. Although being Utada’s least experimental album we do see a new, previously unseen side of Hikki. Dirty Desire shows a sexy side which is rarely seen with many Japanese artists. Suggestive lines can be heard throughout the song such as “When I’m alone at night, I sit and fantasise” and “I’ve gotta make you mine, can you feel my dirty desire, dirty desire…?” Poppin’ shows a partying and clubbing side of Hikki with the lines “I wanna see the bottles poppin’” and the hilarious line “oops, did I turn you on?” Me Meuro depitcs a blunt lyrics, with the lines “now and then I’m suicidal” and other death related lyrics.

This Is The One also shows a more sensual side of Utada with the beautiful R&B ballads; Apple And Cinnamon, This Is The One (Crying Like A Child) and the lead single Come Back To Me. All these ballads showcase a different and deeper side of Utada, which is seen in earlier albums, however never in previous English albums. Apple And Cinnemon is a song about what could have been, if Utada and her ex were still together. This Is The One (Crying Like A Child), which is easily the best song on the album, is a heart breaking ballad, with simple acoustic and R&B elements. With sentimental lines such as “How could I ever love another? How could you say you don’t remember? God knows I’d give anything for just one more night together. Today I miss you more than ever. How could you say you don’t remember, this one’s for the happy days, I’ll be wishing you forever.” It’s pretty hard not to like this song. However the mood is quickly killed by the following song Automatic Part II which had fans wrongfully excited. When it comes to music Utada releases songs that sound fresh and loveable, however Automatic Part II rebels this trend, being one of Hikki’s most annoying and unlikable songs. With recycled pop beats and robotic like vocals, it’s an automatic reaction to instantly dislike this song. However it does have on catchy line: “Hello my name is Utada like dadadada”. I’ll give it to her that the song really is quite hilarious, although its severely lacking quality overshadows this. In Taking My Money Back Utada stands up for herself and is strong; “Now I finally see, that you were using me and I’m taking my money, my money, my money back.”

Tracks are thoughtfully placed, however without an interlude, there is a big jump in atmosphere, especially between This Is The One (Crying Like A Child) and Automatic Part II. The majority of the album sounds fresh and is likable and in my honest opinion is a lot better quality than a lot of the other leading American R&B artists.

So the big question. Is this really the one? Well yes and no. This album is not the one if you are looking for Hikki’s experimental style found in previous albums. However it is the one if you are looking for a feel good American pop record, with quite good, yet at times strange lyrics. After all Utada stated in an interview that all she wanted to do is create a good American style pop record and I respect her for that.

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Sounds…

as though Utada has drowned herself in everything American.

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Overall Rating

Four stars

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Track list:
1. Oh What A Beautiful Morning
2. Neopolitan Dreams
3. So Jealous
4. Coin Laundry
5. Clean White Love
6. Pirouette
7. Love Letter
8. Oh! Hark!
9. Red Wine Lips
10. Sidekick
11. Stevie
12. Animals
13. Valium
14. Heroine
15. Time Means Nothing At All
16. Remind Me (Demo)
17. Oh Nostalgia (Demo)
18. Sun Sun Sun (Demo)
19. Oh! Hark! (Acoustic Demo)

Release date: 31st July, 2009
Number of albums to date: 1st studio
Style: Indie, Folk, Pop
Language: English

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Oh what a beautiful Morning! Oh what a beautiful Day! Oh what a beautiful Morning! Everything’s going my way!

Lisa Mitchell is relatively well known in the Australian music industry and for a good reason too – quite frankly, she’s one of the best Australian musicians in a very long time. Her two EPs Said One To The Other and Welcome To The Afternoon released prior to Wonder were extremely promising, especially coming from a country girl who came sixth on Australian idol being a mere sixteen years old at the time. Wonder is no exception. Since then Lisa has developed a more ‘mainstream’ style, however her music still has her unique perks and folk roots.

Lisa’s voice is soft, ruminative and at times childish which is perfect for the delicate music she produces. Each song is subtly exploding with simple guitar melodies, playful pianos and on some occasions pumping drums and harmonicas. Although this is certainly no ‘country’ album Lisa displays elements of her rural upbringing especially in Sidekick and So Jealous. Songs like Coin Laundry, Time Means Nothing At All,  Animals and Heroine show off Lisa’s newly developed pop sound, full of catchy harmonies and beats.

Wonder also showcases a rarely seen softer side of Lisa. Pirouette, Love Letter, Valium, Remind Me and Oh Nostalgia are all examples of nostalgic tunes which Lisa sings with great emotion and conviction. In Valium Lisa sings “I wish I could bottle you up and breathe you back as Valium” desirously. Love Letter tells the story of two long distance lovers and a girl’s dissatisfaction of this relationship – “you’d be better off writing someone else your love letter because I’m always on the road and I’ve course I want to know you better, but you know the way it goes. A telegram is no substitute when it comes to living proof. Go on and write somebody else your love letter,” and later goes to sing “living in that chest is a big, big heart. One I’ve known from the very start”. These songs display some of Lisa’s best song writing and singing.

Wonder contains impeccable lyrics which are witty, thoughtful and creative and all the songs gracefully rhyme. Lisa cutely sings “I like the way that you talk, I like the way that walk. It’s hard to recreate such an individual gait. You wait your turn in the queue. You say your ‘sorries’ and ‘thank yous’. I don’t thing you’re ever one-hundred percent in the room,” in Neopolitan Dreams which you should take my word for when I say it’s extremely catchy. Coin Laundry is made up of hip-hop-like beats and the line “do you have a dollar?” repeated over and over, which also proves to be one of the album’s most memorable tracks.

All in all Wonder is a near flawless album overflowing with catchy melodies, clever lyrics and contented singing.  Lisa Mitchell’s debut album is certainly not one to skip… in fact it may well be on ‘repeat’ for some time simply because it’s… wonderful.

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Sounds…

like soothing and blissful folk music that’s slightly more mainstream than her previous works.

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Overall Rating

Four and a half stars

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Track list:
1. Arabesque
2. Ai no Jikken
3. Erotic
4. Hikousen
5. Kaifuku Suru Kizu
6. Houwa
7. Tobenai Tsubasa
8. Kyoumei
9. Glide

Release date: 17th October, 2001
Number of albums to date: First and only album under the name Lily Chou-Chou
Style: J-Pop, Alternative
Language: Japanese, English

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When the producers of the Japanese movie All About Lily Chou-Chou, also known as Riri Shushu no Subete decided that Salyu should play the fictional pop goddess Lily Chou-Chou, who helps insecure teenagers survive school-life through her melodic voice, they made the right decision. If you are familiar with and of Salyu’s later work you will be aware of her distinctive voice, but with Lily Chou-Chou her voice is much different. It sounds calmer, smoother and although it may not be as strong it still is pleasant to listen to.

If you’re not into slow-moving and droopy music then unfortunately this album may not be for you, but if you are one whom likes emotional and melancholy music then this album is a must listen. While Salyu in this album may be bland in terms of her singing she manages to capture the overall somber mood of the album. In no ways is Kokyu a happy album. It’s subtle and melodramatic, but nonetheless brilliant. While some songs such as Kaifuku Suru Kizu may bore because of the lack of climax and interesting arrangement the majority of the album is presented nicely through simple arrangements and sullen vocals.

By far the most depressing and best song on the album is Houwa which is a piece of art in its own right. Only consisting of the lyrics “I miss you” and a few Japanese lines it is the epitome of the album. The arrangement, the vocals and the lyrics all come together as one and create one of the most hauntingly depressing, yet beautiful songs of the decade. I’m not joking… it’s that good!

If you’re looking for something that shies away from mainstream then look no further. Kokyu shall we say, is a very “different” album. It’s not a feel good album that will make you think the world is full of flowers after you listen to… quite the opposite actually. I wouldn’t describe Kokyu as a pop album, instead it fits better into the alternative album and I must say there’s no other albums out there quite like this.

While Kokyu has its ups, it’s not complete without its downs. On the most parts the arrangements, while simple, are interesting, however there is the odd occasion where the arrangements can get boring. The same can be said about Salyu’s vocals. In Hikousen Salyu’s vocals are modified to make them have a more rugged; however this makes the arrangement take over and drown out the vocals which isn’t a pretty thing. Kyoumei although presented better also suffers the same fate in terms of arrangements drowning out Salyu’s voice.

Kokyu worked on a personal level for me, the album had an emotional edge which could not possibly be present in a mainstream album. Some songs (mainly Houwa) where heartbreaking and oh so hauntingly beautiful. All I can say about albums like Kokyu is that there simply aren’t enough released.

Salyu has proved that you really can make an album appeal on a personal level. She has released something that is totally original and that can’t compare to any other out there. It’s a shame that she hasn’t released any more albums as emotional as this. As I have said earlier Salyu may not have very powerful vocals on this album, but the vocals she’s displayed on Kokyu work well with the music, however in a few instances they let her down as do the arrangements that sound her voice. Putting it simply; if you’re into an emotional and original album then look no further.

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Sounds…

simplistic, melancholy yet moving.

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Overall Rating


Four stars

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