Saturday, October 16, 2010

This Fire Still Burns

There was a time when female singer-songwriters ruled the charts. From Sheryl Crow to Shawn Colvin, Alanis Morisette and Fiona Apple. While all the ladies were ultra-talented, Paula Cole broke through with probably the best Lilith Fair-esque album, the epic This Fire. Most of these women were angry, but few took their anger like Cole to make such magic out of the emotion. Combined with her impressive voice and a background in jazz, Cole made music that her contemporaries only wish they could’ve.

That was 1996, and since then Paula Cole has been somewhat hidden from the music world. With only three albums in 14 years, Cole seemed to have lost her way in the past. In 1999, with the release of Amen, Paula Cole dove deeper into her jazzy roots, but at the same time, didn’t make the transition from angry and hurt to a born-again Christian successfully. Lyrically the album is among her weakest, and while there are amazing moments on the album, overall Amen paled compared to her peak years.

Then came 2007’s Courage—another disappointment. Paula Cole gets it the most right when it’s just her, raw and open, alongside her piano. Something Courage was missing, raw-Cole. Radio-friendly it was, something better suited for Sarah Mclachlan than Paula Cole.

Now with the return of Cole in a new form with Ithaca, the singer-songwriter has finally found out where have all the cowboys gone, and has found many new stories to tell about what real life can be. .

It’s easy to say Cole has went back to her roots for this album, but Ithaca is a completely new journey. While This Fire was about her early years and breaking her own mold, Ithaca finds Cole finding her way home, if not the long way.

“Music in Me” the album’s first commercial single finds Cole at her creative and artistic peak. If one had ever thought that Cole would never be able to make a record as impressive as her past material, “Music in Me” hails the return of Super Paula, back with infectious hooks, raw emotion and personal lyrics that are eerily universal.

On the album’s most soft and precious moments, “Elegy” and “Violet Eyes” Cole dives deep down inside of her to create a tenderness that is beautifully haunting. Lyrically, they see Cole reflecting on herself and life itself, pondering the deep questions and looking at herself in a real way for the first time in years.

Retro-Paula comes out the most on “The Hard Way,” which could have easily been tacked onto Cole’s debut LP. But Cole really steps back in time on“P.R.E.N.U.P,” Cole’s update on the Tammy Wynette country classic “D.IV.O.R.C.E.” The song finds the singer in a new area: twang. Not a cover, more of an homage to the iconic track, but finds Cole’s humorous take on the contemporary state of marriage (or the dissolution of it).

“Sex” is simply put, Cole’s most erotic expression since “Feelin’ Love.” One of the few singer-songwriter female artists to express raw sexuality, Paula Cole shows that a woman can be creative, poetic, intelligent, talented, but still have a sexual drive and sensuality that makes someone like Fergie look like a silly school girl.

Cole does resort to the safer side at times (as she did on Amen and Courage). Songs like “Come On Inside” and “Somethin’ I’ve Gotta Say” sound just a little bit like something from a romantic comedy, and while Cole makes the most of the genre, still, these are chick-flick songs. “Waiting On a Miracle” isn’t quite as bad, but lyrically and sonically sound similar to the weaker Amen material.

It has been over 15 years since Cole’s debut with Harbinger, and even though the songstress has seen her share of success and flops over the years, there is one thing for certain: there is still a burning fire that is deep inside the singer-songwriter and her connection to herself, her music and to her fans has not been watered down. With Ithaca, Cole has only begun her musical journey and it has become more than obvious that she doesn’t need that cowboy, anymore.

Not So Sorry

In case you create a band that uses absolutely no lyrics or vocals, period, in your records, there is only one thing to do: create an instrumental album to rock the senses. That is just what Sorry No Ferrary does on their debut full-length LP Ternary. Rarely does American contemporary rock take such risks, but Sorry No Ferrary takes on the challenge and the results are winning at times, not so great at others, but for a debut album, especially an instrumental one, Sorry No Ferrary has really nothing to be sorry about.

On of the few non-suite songs on the record, “Ashar” dives in first for the most haunting track on the record. Filled with the type of passion and emotion, that, with vocals, would’ve surely been a radio hit for the band. But because of its lack of lyrics, the electric guitar becomes the voice of the song (and the record itself), allowing for a more free-flowing adventure that may have been limited by vocals.

“Setun” sounds like an instrumental track on an early 80’s power-rock record, and the opening song “Ternary” sprawls over three tracks, influences by a few eras of rock music, mostly contemporary and 80’s. While one can see the attempt to create an epic opening track for a debut album, but what is missing from the songs are any real surprises. Perhaps a little more experimentation could have been done with such a long opening, something along the lines of “Ashar” only, well, different. Even so, the opening is an interesting ride.

Truth be told, the album does end on a sour-note, though. “Talos II” takes the least risk on the record, sounding more like a common backing rock track, than a musical tapestry that most of the other tracks. What’s baffling is the difference between “Talos I” and “Talos II.” While “II” is a disappointment, “I” get down and shows all what the band has got. “I” sounds like a free-for-all jam session, on the other side, “II” sounds cold, calculated, and rehearsed to death.

In the end, this is an instrumental album, making it less likely to be on your most played list, but that’s the magic of the record. The music itself isn’t made to be worn out, but to be enjoyed when the mood strikes the listener, making allowing the music to get the attention it deserves.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shakira Burns Bright

In the wide range of things, one might question what ever happened to Shakira? In the beginning, with her major label, worldwide debut with Pies Descalzos, Shakira reigned as a talented singer-songwriter, with, while had some Latin influences, was more about the lyrics than anything else. Then came the English debut album and the bleached blonde hair. Not much changed, she still produced some impressive work, but shortly after that, when her career began to falter, things began to change.

While Shakira has done a world of good for the world, her music lately hasn't done as much. “La Tortura” still remains a classic, but between then and now Shakira has been shaking her honest hips (since they don't lie) down the sell-out lane.

First was the English rock-album that had the musical and lyrical “quality” (or lack their of) of an Avril Lavigne LP, then a techno-based record that sounded like Britney Spears rejects. “She-Wolf” was one of her finest moments, 3-minutes of organic-disco bliss, but the rest of the album was more of a chihuahua than a loba music wise.

This time around, Shakira gets back to her roots at times, and moves forward at others, something that allows most of the album to shine as bright as the sun.

Staying away from the most obvious dance-trends traps she fell into on her last album, Shakira this time spins into a merengue club sound. Slower and more sensual than conventional merengue, the tracks “Gordita” and “Addicted to You” and “Rabiosa” (Spanish Version) show Shakira has found her sexy-side, something that was missing on She-Wolf.

Thankfully there is a various Spanish version, because “Rabiosa,” (English Version) features Pitbull, which is kind of featuring Vanilla Ice on a Madonna record. Pitbull has no place on a Shakira album, or on anything musical for that matter.

The premiere single “Loca” isn't the craziest decision for a single, but it's certainly not the shining moment on the album, sounding more like a b-side to the should-be-single “Gordita.” Shakira starts the song ordering her audidence to “dance or die.” Perhaps the most commanding, yet cringe-worthy opening for a song, well, ever. The English version contains Dizzie Rascal and the Spanish-version has El Cata rhyming along Shakira. Both versions could lose the rapper and use the time to expand on the enjoyable merengue sound.

The rock-flavored tracks, like the weak “Devocion” always tend to weigh down Shakira's albums, yet no matter the sound of the album itself, the rock songs always seem to make their appearance. Much stronger rock-tracks then the Oral Fixation records had, songs like “Islands” and “Antes De Las Seis” float musically into a much lighter side than the usual aggressiveness of Shakira's electronic guitar-driven moments.

Shakira softens even more on the soft-piano ballad “Lo Que Mas” and made-for-radio “Mariposas.” Both tracks are sweet, if not particularly memorable.

The sun does go down sometimes, though. “Waka Waka” was fine for the World Cup, whatever, but to include on the record feels oddly out of place. Not merely because the track itself it as kitschy as a 90's one hit wonder, but because the new recorded tracks outshine it to the point it's the only real spot on the record where the sun doesn't touch.

Finally, after record, after record, Shakira has made a comeback. Not commercially, as she has remained on top all these years as the top Latina artist (though, with little competition), but artistically. Looking up, Shakira has finally found a balance between the Shakira we want, the Shakira we remember, and the Shakira she wants to be.

Step Back in Time

Strange Veins

Add a dash of the dark electronica/pop of The Cure, then mix in some of the experimental dance beats of David Bowie, refresh it with some talent from today and you have yourself some Sealions. The Atlanta-based foursome have recently been taking over the local music scene with their new take on what it means to be an indie artist in Atlanta. A city known for its abundance of alternative rockers and hip-hop stars, the Sealions bring a fresh new sound to the scene.

It’s undeniable how influential the music of the ’80s has been on current artists, but with the Sealions, the music actually sounds like it could be played alongside a playlist of early Madonna and Human League and not sound out of place. Retro isn’t the word for it, perhaps homage?

Not a concept record, but Strange Veins does have a theme: “I Love the 80′s…A Lot!” Because of that, while it’s easy to call the album dated , it also becomes a strong contender for filler, something the band smartly avoids by filling the disc with sing-a-long harmonies and sharp production.

The band gets it the best when they channel their ’80s-disco side. Both Joey Pation and Jason Travis capture the true elements of their sound with their voice. Tracks like “Bellweather” blend the airy-pop of Erasure at their peak and the SAW production of Kylie Minogue in her beginnings. Perhaps the most infectious track of the bunch, it makes for the perfect night at the disco. That’s not to say the rest of the album is anything to skip, in fact the entire album takes in mind the dance sensibility that the ’80s provided much of. Some songs are more downtempo (“Apparition”) than others (such as “Islands”), but each and every track does have something for the dance floor.

“Quarter Moon” not only sounds like something David Bowie would have recorded during his “Ashes to Ashes”-era, but actually sounds better! But with all these influences, the one thing the band is missing in their music is warmth. While none of the tracks are sweet-n-low sweet, at times the music seems cold and calculated, with the production bordering on icy. No worries though, the band has much time to melt and let some emotion show.

Two decades after the ’80s are over, the sound still reigns supreme, the same way disco did in the ’90s and the way that house music will most likely made a comeback in the 2010s. Wait long enough and all music will come back in style, which is a good thing. Ten years isn’t long enough to enjoy a certain type of music and the Sealions are doing their part to let those who love the ’80s to continue to get into that groove.

Bipolar Audio

Weapons of Audio


If there is one thing you cannot do, it’s define what kind of sound that Weapons of Audio have created for their album Bipolar. There’s a little hip-hop, some electronica, a bit of pop, some rap, even a little slice of blues. With all these sounds, does the band create a successful stew of sounds?

Prince, or the Artist Formally Known As Prince, is a definite inspiration here, but the duo dips into the sounds of several other artists as well. This is no insult, as for a debut album, while drops of their influences show up here and there, the duo definitely have established their own sound.

“Partyline” shows what a song would be if Outkast remixed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It’s catchy, fun, different, and has the wide appeal the King of Pop had, along with some bits and pieces of experimental sounds. Let’s just say if the duo followed this sound throughout the record, they would’ve had a smash on their hands.

“Boulevard” borrows from the one-hit-wonder sound the band The Black Eyed Peas have been making a career out of for the past five years. The track, if released as a commercial single, would undoubtedly become a hit (if not a minor one), the only problem is, it’s a bit too kitchy to establish the group an album artist. Same thing with the sexually-charged “If You Want Me” and its accompanying x-rated music video clip. It just feels like this has been done before.

Mostly a feel-good music LP, the album takes an dark turn on the track “Kill My Boss,” which dives deep into the group’s fantasy of the multiple ways in which they would murder their employer. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek song, lyrically the song is reminiscent of Eminem’s earlier material, in which he obsessively wrote about what he would do to his ex-wife. Controversial? Perhaps. Shocking? Yes.

Even with the lyrics of “Kill My Boss,” the most shocking moment of the disc is the opening “Boogie Shoes,” if only because it is so distant sonically from the rest of the record. Incorporating more of a bluesy, harmonica-based sound, the track shows from the beginning that this band takes their idealized version of club/hip-hop music to an experimental place that few have gone to before.

With the abundance of copy-cats out there in the music world, it’s refreshing to hear a duo take on the music on their own terms. With that, the record does run the risk of not becoming a commercial success, but at the same time, so many artists have seen success on their own terms with their own sound, there is no reason Weapons of Audio couldn’t join these ranks and change the face of music. In the end, the stew of sounds this band created with their own recipe may be a bit strong or “strange” for some, but for others looking for hip-hop with a fresh take, this just might for you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Deep Surprise

Her music drops slowly into your soul. With ripples of rhythm flowing towards the listener song by song, word by word, Samantha James has found her sound by mixing waves of lounge with sprinkles of electronica, making one of the most surreal, yet mesmerizing albums of the past ten years. Solely by listening to the artists latest LP, Subconscious, one cannot help but let the luscious lyrics, vivacious vocals and mellow melodies dive deep into your subconscious.

James may know how to hypnotize her audience, but the only thing now is for the world to catch onto one of the greatest artists of the past decade. After a #1 single on the Billboard dance charts with “Rise,” James released her debut album of the same name. While sales were soft, the quality of her debut matches that of legends.

With Subconsious, James continues her legacy of the Queen of Lounge and one of the few artists out there who can take what is conventionally background music and put pure heart into it, bringing it to life.

On “Veil,” the LP’s strongest song, James tells the listener to lift their own veils and see the world for what it is: a light that shines over all of us. “Veil” has James in the area where she does it best: lounge. Perfect for that drive at sunset or along with that delicious cosmopolian. The song explodes with euphoric rhythms that put the listener in a trance, but even though this track is one of the most flavorful, it’s just a taste of things to come.

Mirror mirror on the wall, which song is the most single-worthy of all? The answer is “Find a Way” perhaps James’ most gorgeous song so far. Everything about the track, from the melody, to the vocal delivery has the familiar scent of Sade. The calming song puts the mind at ease and allows the listener to journey through the emotion of James as if they were floating through rose-scented air.

James flows most freely on “Free,” the most urban-flavored of the bunch, shows James tip-toe into the world of electro-jazz. Perhaps one of the LPs most candid track that shows the reality of the protagonists pain and wishes. One the other side, the title track makes for some fluffy fun on the dance floor. But even for a song about a topic as trite as a club hook-up, the songwriter likens the occurrence to something that touches her soul and dances through the most hidden areas of her mind. Another dance track, “Waves of Change,” the album’s first single, crashes onto the dance floor with some of the best remixes of the year done by Kaskade.

One of Rise’s most memorable moments was “Right Now” a simple chill track with minimal vocals and an amazing musical production. The sequel, “Life is Waiting” follows the same musical road with similar success. Think of it like the older sister of “Right Now,” with even more production. The simplicity of “Right Now” made it a chill classic, and while “Life is Waiting” holds the same future in its hands, one cannot help but compare the two.

James doesn’t always reach pure perfection. “Tonight” would make for a nice club track except for the inclusion of guest vocalist JB Eckl, whose vocal talents fail to mess with the suave diva. “Illusions” starts off nicely, but that ends up to be an illusion itself. The song sounds like an awkward mix of sounds and lyrics the singer has previously done. Even so, in the rare instances when the album drops, the quality is still above 99.9% of music out there today.

Pushing forward and upward, “Satellites” sees James venture into acoustic-touched electronica with sweet success. “Maybe Tomorrow” goes through the glowing motions of loungy-pop, and “Amber Sky” drops with the soft, sweet sounds of electronic-pop to the poetic lyrics of James yearning for the girl of her past. “Tree of Life” at first, seems to have been sprouted in the same vein as Rise’s “Come Through," but the song does grow on you eventually on its own ground.

The final page of the album, “Again and Again” marks the first released Samantha James track with no electronic elements to it at all. Nothing but pure piano, the haunting closer shows the most sensitive side of the singer.

As the LP makes its way deeper into your subconscious, feelings of beauty and love takes over in a way that no other album could make you feel, and with that, Samantha James has become a success. Perhaps not a success with sales, but James has found her niche for her sound and her message that transcends all fads and breaks through the musical barriers to make her mark. Like the word itself, it is impossible to define the album Subconscious precisely, but perhaps that’s the genius behind Samantha James.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rhythm of Love

At first glance, Aphrodite's cover looks like either the second coming of Christ, or an advertisement for Kylie Minogue's newest, bluest perfume. With that said, Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite proves to be a little bit of heaven and still sleek and sexy enough to be en vogue. In comparison to other Kylie records, The poetic lyrics of 1997's Impossible Princess are still no where to be found, and the striking vocals of 1994's Kylie Minogue have been replaced by airy, nasal one's since 1995, but even so, the album is full of love.

Produced by Stuart Price, the genius who assisted Madonna in the creation of hit LP Confessions on a Dance Floor, the album has the 70's/80's/90's dance flavor while still maintaining the modern sound. Aphrodite isn't quite as danceable as Confessions, but listening to the disc, one realizes that the current Madonna's music is all about strength (and sex) while Kylie takes a much softer approach to the topic of love.

“Cupid Boy” shoots its dart deep into your ears and feet, becoming Minogue's best song to dance to tipsy on the floor. Another future dance floor-classic, “Get Outta My Way” gets things going from pretty much the premiere of the album. “Better than Today” have Minogue's best lyrics in years and production-wise, the most flavor of the entire LP. The title track, in which the Aussie claims to be a “Golden girl, an Aphrodite” turns out to be one of the singers most fierce tracks, well, ever. And it's true, even though Kylie isn't Bea Arthur, she is a golden girl.

When it comes to the theme of love, the songs touched by Kylie's soft spot are “Everything is Beautiful” and “Looking for an Angel.” Both filled with pure euphoria and sweetness. While not as romantic or sexy as 1994's “Automatic Love,” both fill your heart with drops of love.

One track that needs to be a single is the song “Closer.” Along with its eery production and sexy sounds, the song sinks deep into your mind and takes over. One can just imagine a video of a scary, yet sexy Kylie being chased by mutant ducks (listen closely to the intro). In the same vein as Michael Jackson's “Thriller” or Rihanna's “Disturbia,” Minogue carries on the tradition of amazingly haunting, yet sometimes scary pop.

As with most Kylie LP's, there are a few slips. First and foremost being the first single “All the Lovers” in which the singer chirps “Dance, I'm standing here, why won't you move?” Won't move? Hopefully this isn't a metaphor for sex, otherwise, one has to wonder about Kylie's choice of “lovers” and if this one who refuses to move is the best, how were the rest?? Lyrics aside, the music, which sounds like the sissy sister of Kylie's hit “I Believe in You” has to be Minogue's most limp-wristed production since her debut single “Locomotion.” While not as bad of a choice for a first single as the god-awful “2 Hearts,” “All the Lovers” actually is one of the weaker links of the disc.

There are other songs which are not so loveable, such as “Too Much,” which sounds like something you'd hear at half-time, and “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” tries (too hard) to be a club anthem when it lacks everything it takes to be one.

Minogue, who is known for her b-sides and bonus tracks, such as “Good Like That” and “Almost a Lover,” that are usually better than the songs that make the album, disappoints so far with the rare songs for Aphrodite. Kylie finally has done a Spanish version of a song with “Los Amores” (“The Lovers”) but it's a shame she wasted the languge on such a track. “Spinning Around” or “Word is Out” are much worthy contenders for the conversion, but I'll take what I can get from Kylie when it comes to espanol.“Heartstrings” sounds like a Fever-era throwaway, “Good Hard or Go Home,” along with its cringeworthy rappers yelling “hey!” every chance they get, is better suited for Rihanna than Kylie Minogue, and while “Mighty Rivers” fits the album perfectly, it doesn't hold a candle to Kylie's legendary bonus tracks. Still though, the b-sides fit the idea Kylie always had for this album: one of love.

Looking at today's charts one might ask where has the love gone? The answer: Kylie's latest LP Aphrodite. Filled with sounds and words of love, the album let's you fall in love with Minogue all over again after the entire X fiasco. As loveable as this album is, its laughable that no matter how good it is, the likes of Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga and Kathy Perry, with their heartless, throwaway-pop, will outsell Minogue. Most songs of this solid record prove to be the musical form of Cupid, all pointing their arrows to the tushy of love. Kylie Minogue may not be Aprhrodite, but she is a strong contender for the goddess of pop.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beautifully Lost

Remember Blues Travelers from the mid-’90s? Well, if that group had died, their reincarnation would be JK & The Lost Boys. Some mellow jam sessions, catchy hooks and clever lyrics have all be bunched in together in the band’s EP Street Lights & Avenues. Natives of Conyers, Ga., the lead singer mixes the popular rock sound with his own unique brand of jam-session folksy pop inspired by those before him. Not only is the inspiration of Blues Traveler apparent, but there’s a little Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows in there. Surprisingly, the band pulls this sound off the the greatest of ease. In other words, this doesn’t sound like a debut in any way.

“Beautiful Day” starts off the record with a distinct flavor that brings you straight back to the 90′s, but that’s no insult. Current commercial rock/pop pales in comparison to that of its past, and with their charming songs, JK & The Lost Boys step back in time without sounding retro or stale. If “The Wrong Things” isn’t released as a single, that would be a mistake. One of the best tracks on the short album, the track details the mistakes of the protagonist in the matters of love.

With a twist of twang, the album goes down the folksy route at times, and while not for everyone, the sound doesn’t stretch much from the band’s overall tone. “Sing it On Down” strides down the road of the folksy sound, and while it may turn some off, fans of folk will no doubt enjoy the mix of sounds.

The most politically-charged track, “What’s This Peace” questions the true motives of war and if all the pain is worth it. Perhaps not as inspired as “Give Peace a Chance,” nonetheless, the track is worthy of mention for a debut album.

Closer “Your Colors” ends the EP on a sullen, yet satisfying, note. The track actually sounds like something John Mayer would sing, only about 10,000 times better than how any Mayer track would sound.

Of the six tracks, about three are single-worthy, something rare for a debut EP. With such a promising debut record, it looks like the boys of JK & the Lost Boys are not lost at all, but know exactly what their doing and how to do it well.


Athens and its music scene all have a flavor of their own. Hit acts from The B-52’s and R.E.M., to the Indigo Girls and Bubba Sparxxx have all sprung from Athens, making it one of the most recognized, and diverse, small towns in America. At times, the sound is pure indie, at others, pure pop, but that’s okay, because the acts have the talent to back it up. One thing though, the music isn’t for everybody. With its unique flavor, it takes a special kind of taste to enjoy and appreciate the Athens Sound.

Since 1997, AthFest has not only promoted the music of Athens, but has also supported causes such as arts and music education. In anticipation of AthFest 2010, a collection of the best tunes from some of the artists performing this year are all on one disc.

The disc starts off with The Whigs’ “I Don’t Even Care About the One I Love,” an explosive opening, which brings in the dusty direction that somewhat sets the tone for the entire complication. Listening to Five Eight’s “The Ballad of Frankie Jr.” or Ken Will Morton’s “Tell it to the Wind,” you cannot help but think of Athens on a dusty, dreamy day.

The Orkids “Told You So” wins the prize as the most infectious ditty on the record. Reminiscing of 80’s pop, the sugar-tingled track brings to mind a sunny day in Georgia.

On the more suave side, Hope for Agoldensummer’s “Be Free” and Venice is Sinking’s “Bardstown Road” slow things down for the record. One thing though, Athens’ indie is much different from other cities idea of indie. Even the energetic songs have a mellow feel to them.

Prepare to boot-scoot to some Athens country; like Bubba Sparxxx before, the country chords come through with Timber’s “Sad and Scrawled” and William Tonks’ “Allelujah (Cut the Strings),” songs that twangs things up. The Vinyl Strangers’ “So Long, Heartache” blends the Athens sound with some classic country, making it one of the more interesting tracks of the bunch.

With the mix of indie and country, the AthFest compilation sets the mood for this years upcoming festivities in celebration of Athens music and art. It is a good thing that in a world of hyper-hyped, contrived, overproduced music, there are still some music acts out there who need not polish their sound of fine-tune produce their beats and just be real.

Piano House

Adair Park Recordings artists This Piano Plays Itself are back for another jam session with their album As the House… An album with many sides, at times the sound is pure indie-rock, other times it aims more towards the pop sound. Creative Loafing describes their sound as “wide-scoped rock,” whatever that means. Interestingly enough, a band that calls themselves This Piano Plays Itself doesn’t actually feature a piano as the main attraction of the record!

A much more electric guitar-driven record, As the House…, like many rock albums, has been built with many elements from The Beatles later psychedelic LPs. In just about every of the eight songs, there’s a little bit of Revolver. This is a good thing though, because even the weaker tracks are based on the best. Not to say This Piano Plays Itself are on Beatle Piano-player mode, these guys have a sound and feel of their own.

A semi-concept album, with titles such as “Who We Were,” “When We Got There” and “Why We Stayed,” the LP seems to want to detail a lot about this musical story. Vocally, musically and lyrically, the band seems very focused, but still there lies an element of fluidity in the compositions that set this record aside from other indie releases.

“Who We Were,” the most refreshing and commercial track on the album, is pumped with energy and atmosphere. The moody track has a breath of pop, but isn’t tied down to any of the genres, allowing it to show all the sides of the band. A bit dark, a bit dreamy, and it’s definitely a bit possible this song will break the group through to mainstream success.

The band gets their most whimsical on “How We Left,” a mix of rock, folk, and, of course, an accordion. Quite the charming song, even if sonically it has nothing to do with the rest of the album. No matter, what these guys are about is fun. And fun it is!

Other tracks like “Where We Lived” and “What Happened” range from sullen rock to explosive experimental. The record doesn’t expand much from there, but with only eight songs on the LP, that’s no insult.

The group has already garnered attention for their live shows, making Creative Loafing’s pick for best live shows of the week, and with their sophomore album already creative a buzz online and off. No doubt that the boys of This Piano Plays Itself are set to play themselves right into success.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Look Inside: Is Carmen a Virgin?

“I am a woman of the town..and for the town.”- Carmen Quinonez

She’s naturally blonde, she’s pure, chaste, and men can’t resist asking for her hand in marriage. It’s only natural that the haters come around. In early 2010, a few tabloids papers, along the lines of OK! and Mundo Hispanico, began alledging that Carmen was not a virgin. Since her debut on the Atlanta scene, Carmen has always maintained that she is a virgin and insists on her purity and chasity. “I’m a virgin,” Carmen says in reponse to the rumors. “There is nothing more. I know only a few truths in this life: that my name is Carmen, that I cut hair, and that I am a virgin!”

According to Mundo Hispanico, the unpopular transsexual Jessika Aguiere told the publication that Carmen was indeed “not a virgin” and in fact, was a “whore, a prostitute and a tramp.” Reporter Niece Sanchez says that Jesika called her in the middle of the night, sounding as if “she had just drank 40 beers” and yelling at the top of her lungs that she knew a secret about Carmen that would destroy her reputation forever.

“I remember Jesika [wasn’t too] nice about it all. She claimed Carmen had lost her virginity long ago, and was sleeping with mayates left and right and even that Carmen was using her business to meet men!” says Sanchez. Jesika also claimed to own several photos which allegedly included Carmen performing oral sex on eight African American males. The photos were later proven to have been doctored, and the woman in question was proven to be Jesika herself.

When she heard the news, Carmen was taken aback. “I couldn’t believe that Jesika had said those things to me. But there it was, on the front page of Mundo Hispanico and OK! magazine. It said that I wasn’t a virgin. That I slept around. My name is very important to me, and those lies hurt me a lot. Deep. Very deep.”

On why Jesika would create such stories in her head, Carmen only had one explanation. “Well, I think Jesika is jealous. I’m blonde, naturally. I’m a virgin, and all the men want me. They want to marry me. It’s so true. I remember there was this boy, all of the age of 20, just won Mr. Mexico, and he met me. My gosh, he wanted to marry me so fast. He said just smelling me made him want my hand in marriage.”

Carmen never married Mr. Mexico, aka Oscar De La Hoya, but Carmen did go on to break many hearts. There was the time with Mr. Cary Grant (“He was a love sick puppy. I had to tell him no, because of my chasity”), the members of Reik (“After they couldn’t have me, they all turned gay!”) and Enrique Iglesias (“’Bailamos’ was written about me. He just loved me. After I turned him down, he settled for that tennis player. He actually met me on a tennis court. In 1998, I was a model for this tennis tournament. He saw me, and it was instant love.” ) But to this day, Carmen remains her own woman.

Carmen recalls times before when Jesika has shown her dark side. “She obsessed with this show about female assassins. She always talked about killing men after mating with them, like a praying mantis! One time one of her lovers did die, but it turned out they overdosed. But Jesika always wanted to kill a man she had sex with, and boy, did she sleep with a lot! She’d sleep with anything and then claimed they just kissed. They would be having sex in the next room and I’d be reading my Bible. It started earlier in the night, I would be sipping my water and she would be downing a box of wine, then claiming I was too loud or too ghetto for her in public. It was sad. But I believe in forgiveness, so that's what I did.”

While Jesika attempts to be a woman of Atlanta, Carmen’s popularity overshadows Jesika right away. According to a poll, Carmen outranks Jesika 100 to .05 in Atlanta as favorite female. “She isn’t even a woman,” Carmen says on Jesika. “She’s a transsexual. I was born a woman. I have my vagina, my cherry, my breasts. Jesika just has padding and high heels. But it is ME who is woman.”

Carmen Quinonez was born in Mexico on June 17, 1971. She made her way to the Atlanta scene (legally) in the mid-2000’s she landed herself a job as a hairdresser for the elite in the center of Atlanta. “Those were the good times. I was young, around 29, and the big city of the US seemed so new and fresh. I wanted to spread the word of my hair salon and such, so I went to bars and clubs. People thought it was so I could pick up men, or drink alcohol, but no. I always drank water and ONLY talked about my hair salon. That’s it.”

While Jesika’s claims have made headlines, several around Carmen have come to her rescue publicly. Her aunt Cholita Hernandez speaks of Carmen as a young child. “Ever since she was born, with her long, blonde hair, all the men wanted to be with her. All of them. But she never even kissed boys. We thought she was a lesbiana until we found out she was just pure. Such a good child. And her hair was gorgeous!” Hernandez says.

Many patrons of Carmen's hair salon have spoken out on her behalf. “There is something about Carmen,” says Jorge Ines. “She’s so pure that there is no way in hell that I would believe she isn’t a virgin.” Other patrons of both Carmen’s hair salon, including Santos Lopez and Sheila Ophila both agree that Carmen is pure as the sun. “Why, she’s never even seen a penis! Never even looked at her own vagina! She’s shy. Pure. And very, very chaste,” says Lopez.

Carmen enjoys the bar scene, especially La Dona and Bj’s, but patrons of these discothèques also support that Carmen’s intentions and behavior is as pure as a Christian soul. “I’ve tried to ask Carmen to marry me, or for a kiss, but she won’t!” says Oliver Guitierrez, a dancer at the BJ’s establishment. “I swear I have seen thousands of men going to Carmen, and even a few women, wanting to touch her, or her number, or something even to make love to her, but Carmen only hands out her business card and reads from her Bible,” adds Nancy Ortega, a waitress at La Dona.

“They really should bottle Carmen’s bodily fluids and call it ‘Carmen’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ because that’s what she is,” says Paulina Rubio, a self-proclaimed fan of Carmen. “Her virginity is something to look up to. It really is. As famous and rich as I am, I’d give anything for Carmen’s purity. That and her hair! Haha!”

Last month the popular hair dresser took a public DNA test from her vaginal walls to prove she has never been had. Before she went in front of the world on camera, Carmen clipped her hair with a tortoise clip, and said “I’m ready.” She made her way to the podium and allowed the doctors to take their samples. The results: negative. Proof that Carmen has never had a penis even close to her vagina. “I have never seen such virginity. Not even in young children. Carmen is as pure as it gets. And the DNA results were conclusive that Carmen’s vagina was as virginal as the day she was born, “says Dr. Oz.

After all has been said and done, Carmen’s virginity remains intact. Vicious lies from jealous spectators have not changed the minds of American voters, who gave Carmen the award for the Most Beautiful Virgin Alive at the Virgin Awards 2010. Gossip comes and gossip goes, but Carmen’s purity is forever. At the closing ceremony at the Virgin Awards 2010, Carmen had this to say. “I’ve been through a lot lately, with all the rumors of my virginity. My fans know, my friends know that I am a virgin. “And with a playful move, she flashed her perky breasts from under her yellow cashmere sweater, showing the world what it will never touch. “Soy virgin” Carmen laughed. With that innocent look on her face, you just know that Carmen’s virginity will live forever.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Daddy Yankee: The King of Clubs

The king is back! But is his reign still going strong? Or has his crown been overthrown?

Stepping back in time, one cannot help but realize the significance of Daddy Yankee’s masterpiece, Barrio Fino. Every song, even the fillers, were part of reggeaton history. Tracks like “Gasolina” and “Lo Que Paso Paso” helped Daddy Yankee tear up the latin, urban, and pop charts. He began a revolution that made reggeaton as mainstream as salsa, and opened the castle doors for others like Wisin & Yandel and Tito “El Bambino” to follow. The year 2005 saw Daddy Yankee take the crown of the genre and with his rhymes and rhythms he made a statement: no one does it better.

Since then, albums El Cartel: The Big Boss and Talento de Barrio have been a bit unbalanced. Working with pop stars like Fergie, Nicole Scherzinger and Akon have not helped the king with his reign at all. These collaborations simply provoke the question “why would a king work with the peasants?”

Seemingly back on track, Daddy Yankee’s Mundial shows that he is still the king, only not every song is worthy of its crowning, in fact, the LP suffers from pawns and peasants having too much power.

The royalty: “Vida En La Noche” was made for the dancefloor with its hook-heavy rhythm and off-the-wall beats. The song allows Yankee to glide and slide all over to the deep dance track. “Me Entere” featuring Tito “El Bambino” is the duet of the year, putting the king next to the prince of reggeaton ends in pure perfection. Bonus track “El Ritmo no Perdona” has a little of everything: hip-shaking meringue and hip-thrusting reggeaton. And "Mejor De Todos Los Tiempos,” the album’s opener, sets things on fire and gives a taste for things to come. The king has taken the electronica of "Pose," but still remains in tact with his roots.

The pawns: "Grito Mundial,” has the power, thing is, it has too much of it. From the trumpets, the background chants, the’s just too much of a good thing. Think of it like the reggeaton “Spice Up Your Life.” “Mientiendo Con La Verdad” has the rumba rhythm we all know and love of Daddy Yankee, only it’s missing any actual spice. “La Despedida” steps too lightly, sounding more like a demo tape than a potential single. Lastly, "Daria" would be a strong track, only thing, “Llamado De Emergencia” called and it wants its sound back.

The peasants: A few tracks are so so forgettable, the only sound you’d associate with them is the skip button.“La Senal” and “El Mas Duro” find Daddy Yankee in the dark, dry reggeatonland. ”Que Es La Que Hay” see’s the king of reggeaton venture into the world of hip-hop, only thing is, they never quite make it back. And finally, a track that doesn’t even touch Daddy Yankee’s classic material, “Descontrol,” has to be Yankee’s worst single since the remix of “Impacto” featuring Fergie, probably one of the worst attempts at a crossover in music history. As for “Descontrol,” it’s simple: No hook, no variety, no nothing. Even so, the pawns and peasants of the bunch still make for some of the best club material of the year.

Ironically, Mundial doesn’t have much of a worldwide sound. Its mix, heavy in hip-hop, feels a bit bland at points. Even though Daddy Yankee’s rhyming skills cannot be denied, his crown as king is becoming a bit tarnished. But at the end of the day, Daddy Yankee has still got the “it” that made him a worldwide superstar, and it doesn’t look like that is going anywhere. After everything, from the dancefloor killers to the LP fillers, Mundial still makes Daddy Yankee’s reign one heard around the world.

The Sexy Secrets of Sade

Sensuality flows through the music of Sade like water follows the moon. Since her first hit-single, the smooth operator has given us the sweetest taboos and aural paradise with her records. Considered by many to be the musical equivalent of erotica, no matter what the song is about, her luscious lyrics and sultry delivery make every composition a song for lovers.

Ten years after the epic Lovers Rock, Sade has finally returned to break the tension left by her absence. No ordinary record, Soldier of Love gives us everything we love about Sade and more. Soldier of Love may be short, at only about 42 minutes, but is just as satisfying as Love Deluxe or Promise. In each of the ten songs, the woman gives us more than thrills, she gives us sexual healing.

Soldier of Love is molded quite differently than any album out there and Sade works this to her advantage in every second of the soulful-jazz album. The album’s premiere single, “Soldier of Love,” puts Sade back in control. Not short of thrusting rhythms, “Soldier of Love” pumps deep into your ears. Because the song was released first, it was just a taste - a tease. But now after all the anticipation has built up, the rest of the masterpiece can finally be touched on.

Album opener, “The Moon and the Sky,” caresses the listener softly with its dimly lit production and seductive vocals. Sade embodies the erotic energies around her, making the music drip through your senses, slowly. On the other side of the disc, the closing track, “The Safest Place,” creates an atmospheric paradise.
As most know, it’s not the beginning or the end that’s the best part, but what goes on in between. Sade peels to the core in “Skin,” titillating the ear with its pulsating bass line. “Babyfather,” a feel-good cut that shows the artist at her most laid-back, has the singer going into the acoustic groove. And “Bring Me Home” shows the endurance the singer possesses from within to a hypnotic beat.

Sade travels along her musical journey with, “Long Hard Road,” a track with a rough, dusty feel to it and a lyrical theme to match. “In Another Time,” with its almost lullaby-esque feel, it’s one of the singer’s more gentle moments. “Morning Bird” shows the sensitivity of the songwriter. Perhaps the darkest of the disc, the haunting ballad tingles along a piano-driven melody.

At the end of Soldier of Love, there isn’t a drop of love lost. Sade has given us another record to last us another decade, though, of course, you cannot help but crave more. It’s been 25 years since Sade’s debut album Diamond Life, and since then the diva and her band have given the world not only the best lovemaking soundtrack, but some of the most thought-provoking lyrics. For those wondering if the soldier Sade could come back strong, be assured, she still seduces like no one can. Soldier of Love is a stimulating production that not only arouses the senses and pleases the ears, but touches the heart.

Sect Symbols: Are Lady Gaga and Rihanna Puppets to the Illuminati?

There was a time when certain church groups would play every album, from The Beatle’s Revolver to Madonna’s Like a Prayer, backwards, in search of satanic messages. What they found were hours of unintelligible gibberish, and a few words that resembled the words “Satan” and “666,” of course the proximity of these words weren’t found anywhere near one another in the song.

Now with the accessibility of the internet, websites like are going even further, looking for freeze framed clues that the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna are a part of an underground cult, either the Illuminati or Masons. This website, along with many more recently spawned ones, claim these pop stars are “puppets” of these cults, used in order to breathe life into a “New World Order” or NWO, which would allow for a totalitarian world government. Now this is just a conspiracy, nothing proven yet, but of course, every alleged sign of these groups can be found in the music of many pop culture icons.

Claims of the website state that everything from Lady Gaga’s stage name, her lightning bolt icon, to her covering her eye, and having ram’s heads (which are supposed satanic symbols) in her videos makes her a member of Satanic cults, the Masons, and the Illuminati. Since the word “gaga” is usually the first word said by children, there tends to be an association of her name with “mindlessness,” thus making the singer the perfect contender for being a puppet for the Illuminati. That would be reasonable, but the star claims her stage name was inspired by the Queen track “Radio Gaga.” Furthermore, the lightning bolt is connected to Illuminati cults and how they use electro-shock to brainwash their victims, but followers of David Bowie will see that Lady Gaga was not the first one to use lightening bolts on the face as an image.

The website goes on to dissect every time she makes an “okay” sign with her hand in her “Telephone” video (which he interprets as “6” or “666”), and likens her behavior in “Paparazzi” to a mind-controlled specimen of the Illluminati. What it misses is the fact that these videos are fiction, and just like movies, the people in these videos are characters, not human beings, and that allow the writers/actors to let their imagination control every aspect.

It is true that Lady Gaga does cover one eye a lot, which the writer likens to the Eye of Horus, or the All-Seeing Eye according to Egyptian mythology. But the “covering one eye-effect” has been endlessly used in photography and film, with either a hand or some object; one eye is usually covered, usually for fashion/beauty effect. Lady Gaga did not invent this, but she does use it effectively for her image.

As for Rihanna, the website does go a bit lighter on her. Claiming she joined a cult right before her Good Girl Gone Bad LP. The evidence for this lies in her being “reborn” in her “Umbrella” video. That event does occur in the middle of the video where the “good” girl is douched with waves of water, and out of nowhere, another, sexier Rihanna struts on screen. Of course that’s never been done before! Never mind Madonna symbolically died and was re-born all the way back in 1983 in her “Burning Up” video. Surprisingly, the website pretty much leaves Madonna alone, but goes on further to say that videos such as “Disturbia” show how Rihanna is being controlled by her cults and how the “Umbrella” video, with its scene of a silver-coated Rihanna entrapped in a triangle, is an ode to the Illuminati. Did they ever think that perhaps these artists might have wanted to explore creative directions in their promotional videos?

Lady Gaga seems like she knows her stuff, so isn’t it possible she knows all about symbolism and is using it to her advantage? Maybe she enjoys playing around with this type of iconography and perhaps the same can be said for Rihanna. It’s difficult to blame the diva for trying something new in her art. Expressions that are remembered are those that are different from what is en vogue.

It’s doubtful that a cult has made these women famous, and if this were true, why aren’t people who are openly in cults famous at all? You might see these cult members in a History Channel documentary, but nothing more. Think about this: Rihanna and Lady Gaga all have these things in common: one hell of a work ethic, the best producers, managers and publicists on this earth, and songs that have captivated the world. Their songs may be simple, trite at times, but nonetheless people see them as infectious. And if we are talking trite, why doesn’t the author pick on the Black Eyed Peas, Paris Hilton, or Jessica Simpson?

Playing the devil’s advocate for a minute, Lady Gaga did come from (seemingly) nowhere and blew up on the charts, and Rihanna did go from relative obscurity to superstardom with the song “Umbrella.” It does make you wonder. As shown in Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video, there is a price for fame. At the same time, let’s say Lady Gaga and Rihanna are a part of the Illuminati. Now what? Lady Gaga has promoted for gay rights and individualism since her debut, and Rihanna has broken down racial doors and promotes the image of an independent, yet bootylicious woman who has publicly left an abusive relationship, showing that it can be done. If there is a hidden agenda, it’s either deep, deep, deep down in there, or it’s a positive one.

Either way, the website is fascinating, though a bit creepy at times, because you cannot help but wonder if perhaps all this could be true.

In the end, we need not to worry if our pop stars belong to any cult, as long as their message is positive and their songs are well crafted and infectious. When it comes to real life music and its potential effects, we need to worry about those singers and lyricists who promote hate, misogyny, homophobia, and violence, then turn around justify these things as “art.” That music, subliminal or not, is the most dangerous of all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dannii's Discovered Delights

There are many things in this world that have yet to be uncovered. There are the treasures of the pirates lost at sea, there is the lost city of Atlantis, there are the rarely heard Rain Tapes by Madonna, and of course, the tracks from Dannii Minogue’s aborted third album. Now that one of those has finally seen the light of day, perhaps it’s time to stop looking for the rest.

The 1995 Sessions isn’t quite an LP, more of a compilation of unreleased material from Dannii Minogue’s, you guessed it, sessions in 1995. What was planned to be her third album ended up in the vaults. But with a sigh of relief heard around the world, the vault has been opened.

Not quite as successful as her sister Kylie in the UK and Austrialia, Dannii’s still maintained a successful musical career with her 1991 debut smash Love and Kisses, the 1993 chef d'oeuvre Get Into You and the 1997 underground classic Girl. Though, she has had only one album make a mark on the U.S. side, the 2003 epic Neon Nights. Neon Nights darted to the top twenty of Billboards Top Electronic Albums chart. It’s no wonder Dannii is called the “Queen of Clubs!"

While The 1995 Sessions is not an album of new material, it is what it is, and what it is cannot be described easily. Dannii not only moves your hips, but provokes thoughts. You don’t just hear her, you feel her.

In terms of the songs, DanceDannii jumps to the beat on songs “Skin Deep,” “Love and Affection,” and “Take My Time Loving You.” All three could easily top both the pop and dance charts even today. Packed with relentless hooks and marvelous dance grooves, the tracks prove why The 1995 Sessions finally came out: it was because the producers could not deny the dancefloor anymore.

LoveDannii is unleashed on “Free Your Love,” “Let Love Into Your Love” and “Crazy For Your Love.” These tracks are pure dance/pop, but show Dannii’s diversity as a songwriter and as an artist. For Dannii has, and always will be about the most mysterious element of life: love.

SexxyDannii comes out on the tracks “Love Will Find A Way,” a track that takes some musical advice from Janet’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” but Dannii takes the sound a step further to the erotic unkown. She goes on to hit the spot with the lounge track “Love in Me.” And “Don’t Wanna Leave You Now” is an emotional tapestry that flows to the sensual beat. It’s the type of track that will become the soundtrack for your candle-lit late-night lovin’. Dannii isn’t just the queen of clubs, but the queen of the boudoir.

We also get a peak at RoughDraftDannii by getting the special treat of seeing two Dannii staples in their early stages. Similar to reading the original version of Gone with the Wind, you are experiencing history by listening to the 1995 versions of “Everlasting Night” and Coconut.” Both songs were eventually re-done and released to varying success.

As of now, The 1995 Sessions can only be bought by import or online, but when it comes to rarities, there is no cost too high too much work that can be done in order to own such magic. If men are willing to burrow to the middle of the earth or the bottom of the sea for their treasures, buying this gem through import is nothing.

In the end, it’s no surprise that this music, which is over a decade old, sounds just as fresh and relevant today as it did as when it was recorded. That’s the magic of Dannii, or perhaps it shows that music hasn’t evolved much in the past 20 years. Either way.

Taborah Brings Body and Soul to to the Dance Floor

The day of the big-voiced diva appears to be a thing of the past. While dance music is as big as ever, the job of the actual dance diva has gone from the likes of larger-than-life voices such as Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin to the likes of Ke$ha and Britney Spears, girls who rely more on autotune and the production skills of their music team than anything else.

This is not the case with Taborah, a dance, pop and R&B artists, who, with her years of experience as lead singer of 90s girl group Blackwood, is now coming back and leading some soul to the dance floor along the way. Both of her recent singles “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and “Say I Love You,” show promise that the big-voiced dance diva theme can make a comeback and one day end its current disintegration. Now working on a new album, the diva-to-be is about to break it down at the disco.

Eric Chavez: Congratulations on the new single, “Say I Love You,” but are you currently writing for a new album?

Taborah: Most of my writing comes from what’s going on in my life. For me it’s very therapeutic. It’s a healing process. There’s stuff I have written when I was going through something that I want to put on the album. I always write. There’s not a time period where I say, “Okay, let’s get this album out.” When I write, I write the melody and the lyrics, and the producers do the music.

EC: When can fans expect this new album?

T: I would say, it’s supposed to be the beginning of fall.

EC: In terms of sound and theme, which direction are you going for in the production of this LP?

T: You know what; I will not be Captain Kirk! I do all kinds of things, I wrote a country song. I don’t want to be pigeon hold. When I say I don’t want to be Captain Kirk, because when you see Captain Kirk, you think, “Captain Kirk.”

EC: Definitely! Looking at your career, and your songwriting, who would you say have been the biggest influences for you, artistically?

T: Barbra Streisand is of my favorites I think, because I have a big voice and she has a big voice. She’s good at what she does. She’s a perfectionist. I also like Luther Vandross. Phyllis Hyman and I sound very much alike. People say, “Oh you sound just like Phyllis Hyman.” I finally bought one of her albums and I heard a song on there, “Somewhere of my Lifetime” and I always thought I was singing the Dionne Warrick version, but somewhere in my lifetime I must have heard the Phyllis Hyman version, and that’s the version I was always singing.

EC: For the people out there who don’t know much about Taborah, how would you introduce yourself?

T: I’m a mother first beyond an artist. My daughter asked “mommy, are you famous?” and I tell her “to you, I’m just a mommy and that’s all you know.” I was in Blackwood, in the 90s and we were based in Italy. I wrote all of my songs and rhythms. We started off, and nothing took off. It’s pretty much like my voice and style of writing were ahead of its time.

Most of my fan base is in Europe because they know Blackwood, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to sing one of my songs [“Say I Love You”] in Spanish because I have such a big fan base in Italy. One thing I tell my kids, “If you want to become something, I want you to own it. “

EC: You said you love Barbara Streisand, as we all do! But if you could duet with any artist, who would it be?

T: I would love to sing a song with Phil Collins. I love him! I love his style.

EC: I know there are tons of remixes out there for your songs, but who have been some of your favorite remixers?

T: Well I love John Rizzo and Scott from Solar City. I’m not that creative, when I sing a song one way, I will always sing a song that way. And I don’t hear it. When I heard “Say I Love You” and I thought, “how do they turn it into a dance track? I can’t imagine!” I think the first mix that came back was the Arena mix. I was blown away! I loved it! I would’ve never imagined doing that! How do they even hear that?

EC: When the album does come out, where will your main focus be, promotion wise?

T: I would like to focus more in Europe because that’s where I’ve established myself. It’s always the labels decision on where they want to focus. I think the label does not want to put their focus in one place, but try to spread out. That may sound foolish because you can’t conquer everything and all places at one time. But you can with music if you do it properly, and that’s the business part of me talking. I want to have a double-CD because I want to have all of the songs remixed because I am known as a dance artist. So for me to go do a love song, people love it, and it sounds good, but they want it to play in a disco.

Los Yetzons: A Journey To The Stars

Many artists come from talented families. La Toya Jackson, Dannii Minogue, Ray-J, and Miley Cryus to name a few. Usually the family connection gets you in the door, but makes it that much harder to prove yourself as your own artist. Los Yetzons members Anthony and Small are related to Alexis of the popular reggeaton duo Alexis Y Fido, with Anthnoy being Alexis’s cousin and Small being Anthony’s cousin. It was Alexis Y Fido who hit it big first with their album The Pitbulls in 2005, along-side long time friends Wisin & Yandel., but they never forgot their family, Small and Anthnoy, who were included on various tracks included on their albums. Now with their debut single “Nadie Como Tu” (Nobody Like You) out tearing up the air waves and getting major play on MTV3, it looks like the boys of Los Yetzons may zoon light years beyond the competition.

Not only are there the connections and opportunities to be made from having famous family, but also Los Yetzons picked up a lot of value lessons from Alexis Y Fido. “We learned a lot, especially from the studio, they are really strict when it comes to making a song. There’s a magic in the studio that not a lot of people know to make in the studio, and we learned a lot for our shows, their shows are the most explosive shows” The group finally got their chance to shine on record. “We wrote a song with Alexis Y Fido, and it was “Desacontrol” which was on their Los Reyes Del Perreo and that was our first single with them,” according to Small.

Los Yetzons, pronounced “Los Jetsons,” is a different kind of name for a reggeaton duo, who usually label themselves as a “singer & rapper” type name. When it came to think of a name for their group, “That was Alexis y Fido's {idea}, when they heard our first song, they came up with our name and at first I laughed but we went with it,” says member Small.

Also learned from Alexis Y Fido, is not to flood various reggeaton compilation albums with lesser tracks, as many artists do. “ I don’t wanna sound tacky, but we haven’t come out with a song that we aren’t comfortable with, we learned that from Fido, that’s why we don’t have a bunch of songs out.”
Their upcoming album, which is currently untitled, has already spawned the hit single “Nadie Como Tu,” with its hot accompanying video. When it came to writing their first single without Alexis Y Fido, they looked into their own life. “Nadie Como Tu” was Anthony’s idea. Almost every song he writes is based on something that happened to him or me, or somebody else and that happened to him and he just wrote that.”

Their sound mixes Reggeton, Hip-Hop, Bachata, and R&B. Something of a rare fusion in today’s music. “I get inspired by the hip-hop music, American music, I get inspired by that. Anthony is more R&B…but we wanna have a sound that’s not similar to anybody,” Small says.

Many reggeaton artists began their career humbly. Daddy Yankee, Wisin Y Yandel, and Tito “El Bambino” all made several albums before hitting it big. Inspired by their contemporaries, yet still full of high hopes for this record, Los Yetzons are a bit more optimistic for their debut. “My goal is to travel the world, and no limits you know? I wanna see myself walking on the red carpet, win a Grammy, you know? says Small.”

When it comes to the various reggeaton, various compilations and one-hit wonders have spread like wild-fire over the years, something Small is not to happy with. “I’m not gonna diss anybody, but I personally don’t like when people do reggeaton, or 'get on the bus' just because, you know? There are people that have it, and they don’t and I don’t like that because they don’t have style, but they have the money. They are a bad representation of our genre you know?”

No matter how successful their album gets or any awards they win, Los Yetzons, like all artists, had to make their way from humble, yet inspirational beginnings. Small remembers it well. “I was 14 years old, when Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes and Tribe Called Quest, and then there started to be the Spanish rap in Puerto Rico and I just started writing my own songs. Alexis is my brother, and we both get inspired by all of them and started writing songs together.”

Remembering the mid-1990’s, reggeaton was not were it is today, according to Small. “The only thing, is back then reggeaton was not like now, it was more like a hobby. Then we realized we had to make money, do we started taking it seriously.” Then reggeaton began to make it’s mark on the music world with hit albums by Daddy Yankee and Wisin & Yandel. “Wisin & Yandel helped {Alexis Y Fido} out. I never stopped writing songs or making music, and I presented all my stuff to Alexis and he loved it. “ With their single “Nadie Como Tu” set to zoom up the charts, and their second-planned single, the Bachata-flavored “Cuando se acaba el amor” (“When the Love is Over”), set to be released early 2009. For Los Yetzons, the future holds no limits. With dreams as distant as space, but the talent and skills to back it up, the duo Anthony and Small’s journey can only go up.

Optimo: A World Domination..For the Ladies.

Like Aventura before them, they blend bachata, r&b, and pop for their sound. Unlike Aventura, they are still on their way to making their name a household one. Yet, with hits such as “Falta Amor” (“Missing Love”) and their biggest single “Conectate,” (“Connect with You”) making a mark on Billboards Latin Charts, and with a little help from Henry and Lenny Santos from Aventura, they seem to be well on their way to worldwide fame. Optimo’s sophomore effort A World Tour continues where their debut left off; with clean, fresh sounding Bachata for the masses. Members Romantico (vocals), E.MJ (bass), and Neit (guitar) have definitely returned full force.

For Optimo, it all started with their single “Falta Amor.” “That was our first song, and the first song that made us know that we were accepted by the world,” says Romantico. Then came their successful self-titled debut album, and after years of touring came their second album, A World Tour, with its first single “Ya Te Perdi” (I’ve Already Lost You) which combindes cool-bachata guitar by Neit, rhythmic bass by E. MJ, and Romantico's strong, creamy voice.

The album’s title A World Tour, may sound like a live album, but is actually an album of new material. “We named it the world tour because there are so many places we haven’t been, and with this album we plan to start promoting all over, from Columbia, Honduras, Europe. Actually with this album we focus more on Spanish, all the songs are in Spanish,” says singer Romantico.

The group is beginning to take more creative control of their material, writing or co-writing most of the album. “I actually wrote a lot on this album,” says Romantico. “I have about 6 songs. We worked with Lenny from Aventura, he wrote and produced {some of the material}, and for him to look back and recognize our talent and work with us was a privilege to us.”

Aventura, a worldwide known Bachata group known for hits “Un Beso,” “Obsession,” and the recent “El Perdedor” gave Optimo a helping hand with this disc. For Optimo, this isn’t a first time collaboration. “They are cool people, we knew each other from before, to me it’s like ‘Hey what’s up!’ with them, but at the same time, they are very picky on who they work with, and for them to work with us was like ‘wow!’”

Working with Aventura is one way to make a good album, but making a magical cover of Ana Gabriel’s “Besos Prohibidos” (“Forbidden Kisses”) is another way. The track, not only is a stand-out on the disc, but gave the group an opportunity to learn from the star while trying to get her blessing for the track. “We met her in Miami, and went to her house, and she was a fantastic person, very down to earth person, and I was a very big fan as well. We went through all the paper work, she gave us permission, she’s a very humble person and it was cool she gave us permission,” says Romantico.

In terms of the material the group actually wrote, there came many inspirations for the six-month production. Many of A World Tour’s stronger tracks, such as “La Cuchillo,” were written by Romantico. On creating these tracks, Romantico says “something comes to my head, like a hook and I’ll make a story about it. Or the song “La Cuchilla” (The Knife) that really happened a friend of my brothers went to his wife with a gun thinking he took out all the bullets but he didn’t and he killed her. And he went to jail, and he kept calling me. I wrote it when I was 16, and it’s a very powerful song, it’s not a matter of ‘she left me’, but more about God’s will.” Another track, “Mya” was inspired by the group’s singer Romantico’s daughter of the same name.

Bachata, while a beautiful genre of Latin music, hasn’t proven too popular until lately in the U.S. where the members grown up, but many artists have paved the way and given inspiration to the members. “Juan Luis Guerra for one. He changed everything when he came out, and Anthony Santos and of course Aventura,” says Romantico.

With the inspirations, their talent, and years of hard work, they have achieved stateside success. “Financially and in terms of popularity, things have changed,” Romantico says. “ We walk down the street and it’s come to the point that when I walk down the street and a guy is looking at me, and I’m thinking he’s looking at me wrong, and I forget that I’m an artist and he’ll be like ‘aren’t you from Optimo?’”

Success and the glory of fame aside, there is a lack of privacy for Romantico. “There are those days where you have those bad days and you have to learn with every moment, because sometimes you might have somebody coming to ask you for your autograph and you can’t, and they say ‘aw he’s hateful.’ Even if I’m in a bad mood, you can’t take your private life to work, you know?”

With a full promotional schedule, the members of Optimo are optimistic of their sophomore album’s efforts. “Everybody’s talking about this album in New York, I go anywhere and I’m recognized, for the first album I had those sunglasses on the cover and for the second album I don’t and everyone recognizes me. It’s good, but everybody wants to take a break. Every artist hides a little bit, it’s good because I know that things are really happening, it would be bad if they didn’t recognize me.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

jLo Gets Brave

The artwork depicts two Jennifer Lopez's staring into each other's eyes, confronting each other as the hot pink rain falls from the skies. Brave isn't as confessional or personal as the album cover and title would like you to believe, yet with it's sleek production, soulful melodies, and candy sweet harmonies, Jennifer Lopez's first album since the hit 2007 Spanish-language disc Como Ama Una Mujer, succeeds on the same levels as J.Lo's previous efforts.

With every album debuting in the top ten, including her Spanish-language CD, Lopez's musical career has proven successful over the years, as well as diverse. Her sounds have ranged from pop (Love Don't Cost a Thing), flamenco (Ain't It Funny), hip-hop (I'm Real), tropical (Si Ya Acabo) and quiet storm (Still), but on Brave, Lopez ventures out into the sounds of disco, smooth jazz, middle-eastern, and electronica on a majority of the material.

At first listen, the music, aside from the album's first single, the radio-friendly "Do it Well," surprisingly, does not remind the listener of the current acts on the radio when listening to the disc, but legendary acts such as Sade and revolutionary dance acts like Jamariquoi. "I Need Love" pays homage to Sade's 1992 classic "Feel No Pain" with its afro-jazz bass line, while "Stay Together" is neo-disco at it's best.

The European first single for the album "Hold It Don't Drop It" serves as the album's dance floor killer in the same vein as previous hits "Waiting for Tonight" and "Play" with it's blasting horn section and pumping bass line. 80's-soul tingled tracks including "Be Mine" and "Gotta Be There" fill the listener's ears with the sugary sounds of jazz flutes and funky bass lines. On the other side, the weakest tracks are the pop-ballads and electronica tunes. "Wrong When Your Gone" is a slow-jam gone wrong. "Never Gonna Give Up," is a string based ballad that just doesn't cut it.

The fluffy "Brave," is nice, but isn't exactly the next empowerment anthem. Lastly, there is "Mile in These Shoes" which has everything going wrong for it, from cringe-worthy lyrics, a lackluster melody, and an electro-pop beat that's hard to dance to.

Another disappointment is the album cover.

While fierce, it is a bit deceiving; as it would have you believe this is the dance album of the century, when only a portion of the tracks are in the dance mode.

Lopez makes up for the musical slumps with the sexy, almost eerie "Frozen Moments," a track with a haunting cello hook, quiet vocals, and minimal music. The track is reminiscent of the 1983 Diana Ross single "Pieces of Ice," and it succeeds the same way Ross's track did; combining odd music with an interesting melody. Unfortunately, the track was only available with the pre-order version on I-tunes, but it's definitely worth looking for.

Jennifer Lopez is a fine example of a singer taking their given talent and strengthening it and using it for everything its worth. While she will never be the next Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, Lopez makes up for her limited vocal range with character, infectious songs, and diverse sound. Brave isn't as ambitious as J. LO, or even as commercial in its sound, but for it's efforts, Brave proves Lopez still can do it well.

Braxton's Beat is Back

Her voice oozes sex, and her music, no matter the theme or the lyrics, makes one quiver. With all that, it’s no wonder that her new album is entitled Pulse. The contemporary R&B album is all set to make your heart beat faster with its slick and sexy grooves.

The album’s first single, the sparklingly good “Yesterday,” breathes new life into the R&B ballad genre. It has been compared to Beyonce’s “Halo,” production wise but let it be known that Beyonce doesn’t have anything on Toni. The LP version is pure perfection, making the remix featuring Trey Songz sub par. The song certainly did not need a man’s touch.

A singer known for songs like “Another Sad Love Song” and “Un-Break My Heart,” Braxton doesn’t have a good number of “girl power” tracks, but with Pulse, she is beginning to empower women through song. Aside from the powerful “Yesterday,” Braxton emasculates men with “Wardrobe,” a track in which she compares men to clothes. It’s a bit trite, but still effective. “Woman,” the album’s fiercest moment, goes much deeper into the theme, telling a story of a neglected woman who demands to be treated like a woman with a heart. You go girl!

Aside from the 2000 smash “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” club-bangers have never been the diva’s strongest suit. “Make My Heart,” the LP’s second single, blends funk with electronica to make a unique dancefloor gem. On the other hand, “Looking at Me” isn’t as cringeworthy, as say, a Ke$ha track, the only thing saving the songs is Toni’s seductive voice. Think of the songs as the musical equivalent of when the pulse monitor becomes a straight line. With lyrics like “You got me looking at you, and now you’re looking at me” is about as cliché as it gets. Toni Braxton vocals and Pussycat Doll lyrics don’t exactly set your pulse on fire.

Cooling things down a little bit, Braxton travels down the ballad route on “Heart Never Had a Hero,” which shows off Toni’s super voice and “Pulse,” a track that pours perfection into the LP.Stepping back in time, “Hands Tied” sounds pure 90’s, with its tinkling piano keys and big chorus, but Braxton does it much better on “Why Won’t You Love Me,” a song that practically melts your heart away with it’s sweet and sexy sounds.

Speaking of sexy sounds, from “Spanish Guitar” to “Suddently,” Braxton and Latin ballads blend beautifully, and “No Way, No How” adds to the list of the diva’s ventures into the Latin vibes. On the other side of the field, Braxton almost goes country on the track “If I Have to Wait.”

Fans are aware of the several tracks leaked online in the past few months, but while there were many songs recorded for this project, many will remain unreleased. Songs like “It’s You,” a charming modern day Diana Ross & The Supremes-sounding track, the sexed up “Clockwork,” and the laid-back “I Hate Love” are much stronger contenders for single material than many that did make the LP.

Toni Braxton’s past efforts are hard to surpass. Secrets is a classic, and her debut sounds just as fresh today as it did then. She had a few missteps after that with the lukewarm The Heat and the try-too-hard More than a Woman, but since Libra, Braxton has bounced back.

Pulse sees the iconic diva at her peak once again. Even though she got lost a bit with the club-bangers, she more than found her way back home musically with this record. One of the biggest sellers in the 90’s, the 2000’s saw her career on life support at times. With Pulse, though, her success and music is certain to fly to the top off the charts once again. Braxton is the true definition of a diva.

Fanny Lu Puts Two and Two Together to Make Dos

Showing men how it’s done right, Fanny Lu has taken over the Latin world of music with her talent, intelligence, and sex appeal. While she may be beautiful and blonde, the singer/songwriter is no Columbian Britney Spears. Fanny Lu takes part in the creation of her hits and she comes up with quite a recipe for success.

Combining traditional Columbian sounds of vallenato with the contemporary sounds of electronica successfully isn’t an easy thing to do, but Fanny Lu has done just that her sophomore effort’s first single “Tu No Eres Para Mi” (“You Are Not For Me”). The album, Dos, came out just a few years after her debut success, Lagrimas Calidas. Nixing the sophomore slump, Dos’s first two singles “Tu No Eres Para M” and “Celos” (“Jealousy”) are already hits in the United States and Columbia.

For its first single, Fanny Lu chose, “Tu No Eres Para Mi.” “It’s a very fun song, you look back and you wish you could have dedicated it. It’s about those relationships when you are with someone that is not for you, it has happened to be in the past a few times,” Fanny Lu admits.

In preparation for the music video, “Tu No Eres Para Mi”, Fanny Lu chose Wilmer Valderrama as her male object of affection; unfortunately he also plays the object of her voodoo powers. But when it comes to real life, Fanny Lu doesn’t see herself as a user of the voodoo. “Never!” she says. “I only believe in God, I don’t think your future can altered by anyone. It was showing what woman may want to do, when someone makes you cry, especially your lover, it’s to represent when you imagine when you’re crying to someone who tries to play with you,” Fanny says.

Dos may seem like a very simple title, and perhaps very obvious for a singer’s sophomore album, but for Fanny Lu, “dos” means much more than the number. “It’s called Dos because it is the second album, but also because the album is about the two sides of things, the happiness and sadness, a woman that is sensitive and strong, cries and cleans up the tears and walks again with strength, the two sides of women and men, very different,” Fanny Lu explains.

Her sophomore effort varies greatly from her debut; Dos and Fanny Lu made sure that it did. “One of my ideas was to go as far as I could, to look for new stuff to really explore and look for new things, I wanted to involve in the fusion, we experimented, it’s like cooking, whenever you write the song, you decide which elements to use and which ones to use, we enjoyed it a lot, a lot of new sounds a lot of new ways of doing our fusion, this album has a lot of surprises, even for us!” says Fanny.

When it comes to the most exceptional song on the album, Fanny Lu has trouble choosing just one. “Like children, you can never say you like one more than the other, I like something very much about each song on the album,” says Fanny Lu. If there were one song that stuck out for the singer, Fanny Lu can pick one. “I got to write this song for my dad, “Un Minuto Mas,” (“One More Minute”) and how that one minute could mean eternity, you can use that minute to think about all the things you didn’t think and do things you never got do when they were alive. It’s a sad story in my life and I always wanted to write this song, and I had the beautiful opportunity to do it with Noel Schajris from the group Sin Bandera, and it’s included in the album, and it’s one of the most special songs I’ve written and produced. It was great experience and I love that song, it’s not the song I love the most, but it’s very special to me,” according to Fanny Lu.

A prolific songwriter, Fanny Lu admits there are many songs that were written and recorded, but remain unreleased. “Many songs I wrote are not on this album, we wrote a lot and worked a lot, and we had a lot of songs, I have a great team, we decide which songs we want to include and not to include. We did all the demos and I have them there are my computers, it’s a possibility it’s going to happen with all the albums, Lu says.

While her self-written songs stand out on their own, her beautiful looks and voice have been compared to another Columbian phenomenon; Shakira. When it comes to the comparisons that were made during her debut promo, “I heard it a lot, but I don’t hear it anymore, but it’s an honor, I really admire her, so it’s really great to be compared with such a great artist,” Fanny Lu admits.

Shakira is one inspiration for Fanny Lu, but the singer/songwriter cites many artists from today and yesterday, as the ones responsible for her love of music and eclectic sound. “Elton John, Sting, Bon Jovi, Juanes, Juan Gabiel, Madonna, who’s 50 years old and is still young as she was when she was 20,” says Fanny Lu. Looking back at her early days of listening to others music, Fanny Lu says, “I learned their songs, and I sang them, memorized them, it wasn’t just one artist it was a lot of artists, I grew up with a lot of artists. I believe growing up with so many artists makes you want to use the different elements in your music.” With a hit album behind her and a possible bigger seller in front of her, Fanny Lu only looks at today.

Despite all the success she has enjoyed, Fanny Lu understands what is really important in life, always listing her happiness before her high sales when speaking of her success. It seems as if her happiness leads her direction in terms of music. Listening to Dos, one can expect only rich music full of flavor and heart from the singer/songwriter who gives her fans a taste of the best of both worlds.

Kristine W. is still flying strong despite the hardships

Kristine W. has a lot to be happy about these days: she has just released her latest successful LP, a DVD music video collection, and a holiday disc. She is also currently making her rounds on a world tour, and one of her latest singles, “Walk Away,” a collaboration with DJ Tony Moran, broke a record set by Madonna on the Billboard Dance charts.With everything going on, Kristine W. has not forgotten why she loves her work.

Ever since her debut in 1996 with “Land of the Living,” Kristine W. has put out dance records for the clubs to gush up, all the while expressing her voice, which would impress Aretha Franklin. Even after tragedy struck in 2000, when Kristine W. was diagnosed with Leukemia, she still remained strong.

Strength seems to come easy for the diva, who, no matter what, is her own “Boss.” Kristine is currently in promotion mode for her newly released studio album The Power of Music, which Kristine W. says on the record, “this time it’s going to have a much more world flavor [than my previous records]. There’s, you know, maybe five different producers on the fourteen tracks from all over the world. London, LA, Frankfort,” says the artist. “We covered a lot of sounds, and there’s a chilled-out song on there, like Sade on steroids. On this album, there are so many different sounds. There’s funky-house on “The Boss,” then I have this really epic drama ballad, there’s this Mary J. Blige kinda vibe track I did with Brenda Russell, then there’s this straight up 133 BPM track, almost like a trance track. I think that is why it’s called The Power of Music.”W. is also working on a compilation album entitled Straight Up With a Twist, which she describes as “a CD of acoustic versions of jazz arrangements of my #1 hits.”

Surprisingly, Kristine W. has broken the record set by Madonna for most consecutive #1 Billboard Dance/Club Play tracks. Kristine says, “It’s pretty amazing. You know it’s exciting! I’m just blessed that people like what I do. I always say that music is medicine for the soul, so I’m mixing it up as best as I can.”

Remixes are usually the tracks that get Kristine W. to the top, and unlike many other dance-oriented artists, she takes great care to choose different types for different audiences. “Oh yeah, yes I do! I pick ‘em! Now, especially “The Boss.” I picked them, that is why there are so many different styles. I think people like to hear different things. A lot of times, the record companies want New York remixers to mix it so it will get radio play in New York. But now since nothing gets played on the radio except what’s paid for, it’s like satellite is the only creative radio with people adding new music,” says the diva.

Before the last couple of years, U.S. radio didn’t have much of a warm spot for dance music, aside from Cher’s “Believe,” Madonna’s “Hung Up” and Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Kristine W., an American-based artist, has seen the recent worldwide trends in dance music. “It’s only in America though [that dance music isn’t popular], and you know why? Because dance music is too happy,” the artist says.“Everybody [in the U.S.] is so into being depressed. Code Red and fear. But I’ve been to places where people don’t have two nickels to rub together and are freakin’ happier than hell....Yes, 9/11 happened, but you gotta keep going. I’ve done a show fifteen miles down the road from where there was a bombing, and I don’t know how many hundreds of people got blown sky high, right on the border of Israel, and they were saying I had to quit the show. I was like ‘I ain’t going no where!’” remembers the singer.

As much music as she’s putting out, Kristine W. admits it’s not as easy as it sounds. “It takes about three months. Plus there’s the artwork and production. The record companies aren’t taking care of the smaller stuff like artwork and credits anymore. It’s a lot of work. It’s not as glamorous as the fans think…the only time it’s really glamorous is the time you’re on stage. And meeting with the fans,” says Kristine.

It is her fans that she credits as inspirations, both emotionally and even material wise. “I’m really blessed. I have great fans”, she says. “They’ve really inspired this new album. I’m just the messenger. I basically wrote songs that talk about all the topics they have shared with me,” she continues. To her fans, Kristine W. offers the advice to stay positive and not worry about what the media portrays. “When you’re positive you can make anything happen, it’s when you get negative everything goes to shit. It’s the media, they prey on the sensationalism, and people are afraid to do anything,” says Kristine.

No doubt Kristine W. will continue to support her fans and bring them happiness in this world. “In music we just have to do what we do. And you have to think of the world and what it needs, what do my fans want to hear. What can I do to make things better with my music, since it’s the only thing I do to make a difference.”

Everything has changed for Latin rock group Camila

Scoring success with a debut album, filling the radio with your songs like “Todo Cambio”, sticking out of the crowd of similar groups, then taking four years off…doesn’t sound like the recipe to longevity, does it? True, many artists take time between albums. Sade was gone a decade, but come on, she’s Sade. Gone, but not forgotten, members Mario, Samo, and Pablo are back with Dejarte De Amar. Camila came out around the time of fellow Mexican rock/pop phenomenon Reik, and since then, Reik has released three strong records, now Camila is barely on their second, but do they catch up?

Always compared to Reik, Camila, now leaning towards more the lite-hard rock/pop sound, have shown to be completely different with their sophomore effort. The band captures their sound perfectly with the album cover: a sepia tone photograph of the band on ladders in the lake. The album is beautiful, shows growth, but at the same time gives room for progression of the band’s sound and songwriting.

“Mientes,” the first single, shoots to the sky right off with its radio-friendly riffs making for one of the best rock songs in the past ten years.

Perhaps the most stand-out track on the album, “Entre Tus Alas” sets the feeling of floating on water. It’s gentle, yet strong and perhaps has one of the strongest hooks ever used in rock music history. Acoustic guitars tinkle through the song like drops of water in the calm lake, and Mario’s vocals soak the soak in richness and feeling.

The title track allows the boys to pour a little theatrics into the mix. You could only imagine then with shiny capes and pyro to accompany the performance on stage. By far the biggest risk the band takes as composers. “De Mi,” the final track, takes the listener on an emotional journey through the musical wilderness, complete with tribal flutes. On the other side, “Nada” takes the listener back to the sweet sounds of vintage Camila.

Slower songs, like “Restos de Abril,” “Alejate De Mi” and “De Que Me Sirve La Vida” border on the sappy side, but are perfect for the times when you’re just laying there in the dark with that sexy someone.

If there were any real problems with the album, aside from a few filler tracks, it would be when usually background-vocalist Samo takes the lead. While Mario’s voice is beautiful and diverse, Samo gives the same breathy, whispery vocals throughout the entire album. Artistically, the vocalist tries too hard to be different, changing chords and melodies up when they need not change.

At the end of the day, it would’ve been so easy to have made a sappy-yet-try-too-hard-to-look-tough album like, say, Daughtry, but Camila not only took on the rock genre, they took it to the next level. With Dejarte de Amar, Camila go from “where are they now?” to the savior’s the Latin rock.