Album Reviews Brew 4x4
Miley Cyrus- “BANGERZ”
In case anyone lived under a rock for the past few months, Miley Cyrus dominated the pop culture conversation with foam fingers, giant teddy bears, gratuitous nudity and problematic associations with hip-hop culture. “BANGERZ,” her first album to fully abandon all traces of her Hannah Montana origins, is neither a game-changing triumph nor an outright disaster. Instead, it lands somewhere in the middle: several songs are excellent with strong vocal performances, but many of the raunchier hip-hop-flavored tracks fall flat.
Producer-of-the-moment Mike WiLL Made It helmed seven of the album’s 13 tracks, but none top his accomplishments on singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball.” Most of the guest features also fail to impress: Future’s auto-tuned interpretation of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” leave traditionalists howling, and other cameos from Britney Spears, French Montana and Big Sean showcase little more than Miley’s wide-ranging Rolodex.
Despite these failures, it’s the ballads not the “bangerz” that make a lasting impression. “Adore You” and “Maybe You’re Right” find Miley in peak vocal form, the quaver in her raspy tone doing justice to the darker emotions at play. And for an upbeat winner, “#GetItRight” overcomes its despicably hashtagged title with Pharrell’s sunny production and an irrepressible exuberance that the rest of the album lacks.
- Mark Lieberman
V V Brown- “Samson & Delilah”
With more creative freedom, V V Brown displays an overwhelming amount of passion on her long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s “Travelling Like The Light” album. Released under her new label YOY (You Own You) Records, “Samson & Delilah” drops all the doo-wops, but has plenty of head bops to compensate for the lack of former R&B and pop influences. The Biblical couple for whom the album is named after embodies male and female power struggles.
The opening track “Substitute For Love” sets the tone— it’s a dark and ethereal ballad, heavy in electronic and synthesized sound. Brown’s operatic voice is commanding as she chants behind pulsing drums and vocalizes the hazardous side of love when it morphs into a toxic obsession. “Samson” follows the same flow, rolling at a gradual place that builds until the climax of all the noise. Standout single “The Apple” bites in deeper with a catchy hook and beats straight from the ‘80s. A personal favorite “Ghosts” blends some African juices in the mix that will stir up an adrenaline rush.
V V Brown refuses to compromise herself and this album is a testament to her artistic bravery. “Samson & Delilah” is the victory prize after overcoming obstacles set by the music industry. It’s theatrical, it’s dramatic and it’s transformative.
- Sydney Gore
Sleigh Bells- “Bitter Rivals”
Sleigh Bells’ new album “Bitter Rivals” debuted this week, just a little over a year from their last album “Reign of Terror.” Starring Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss, the Brooklyn based noise pop band debuted their first album “Treats” in 2010. “Bitter Rivals” appears as a return to the band’s classic sound of loud guitar riffs, heavy bass and bubblegum vocals.
Title track “Bitter Rivals” has the familiar modge-podge combination of funky sounds and seemingly opposing melodies. It starts off with soft introduction of hums and a dog barking then lets loose their memorable hard guitar riff and deep bass sound that Sleigh Bell fans love. While “Bitter Rivals” seems to echo “Treats,” it falls short of even that. The album seems less fresh and original than the last two.
Despite this shortcoming, tracks like “Sugarcane” and “Sing Like A Wire” have the great pop vocals and guitar breaks that would please any Sleigh Bells fan. The song “24” differs incredibly from their typical sound, but is great in its own right, hardly even noise pop with a soft alternative chorus. Overall, “Bitter Rivals” will satisfy fans, but appears to be a step backwards in the musical progression of Sleigh Bells as a band.
- Danielle Green
St. Lucia- “When The Night”
Brooklyn-based St. Lucia meets the hype surrounding their debut with funky dream pop that will make you feel as if you’re dancing in some sort of futuristic tropical island paradise. St. Lucia’s two EPs, “St. Lucia” (2012) and “September” (2013), have earned them fame in the music scene for their beautiful and sophisticated song arcs.
St. Lucia’s music succeeds in building a spirit within a song and then making it all pay off in the end. “All Eyes on You,” “The Night Comes Again,” and “Elevate” are perfect examples of their signature style of starting a song out with a slow groove and cranking it up into a glorious and most importantly satisfying conclusion. Not all of their music stems from a tropical background, either. There’s enough variation in their 11-track debut to make for a full repertoire of inspiration spanning several genres of music, from jazz (again, “All Eyes on You”) to psychedelic disco (“Wait for Love”) and modern electronica (“We Got It Wrong”/“September”).
In the end, the “St. Lucia” EP generated a lot of hype for the band, on which “When the Night” greatly delivers, successfully producing tunes that are guaranteed to keep you hooked from start to finish. This is dream pop done correctly.
- Alejandro Alvarez