Kylie Minogue — DISCO
I’ve written many times on this blog about Carly Rae Jepsen’s style of pop music and how it has such a refreshing, timeless sound. This sound couldn’t have come from nowhere. There had to be artists before her that undoubtedly inspired Jepsen’s sound. So that set me off on a music discovery that brought me to several artists who shaped her sound and one of those artists is Kylie Minogue.
Turns out she’s been churning out catchy pop music for decades! Yet she’s never really caught on in the United States, which is both shocking and unfortunate because her music is phenomenal. Lucky for me this discovery of her music happened months ago and gave me ample time to familiarize myself with her music, as it happened to be she had a new album in DISCO dropping in November. Her new album DISCO is not much different from the rest of her discography: it’s fun, catchy and makes you want to dance.
Opening song “Magic” has an effortless glide about it and invites you into the album to have a good time. “Miss a Thing” is a bouncy invitation to escape to the dance floor and “Monday Blues” while predictable in it’s songwriting, just has a likably infectious beat. “Supernova” lives up to it’s name: this song is just a burst of energy a la the explosion of a star. The energy is cranked to the max, in your face and I dare you not to want to dance when the “burst” happens in the hook. “Say Something” utilizes the synth to perfection. “Where Does The DJ Go?” and “Dance Floor Darling” are absolute in ear worms in the best possible definition of the phrase. And the album concludes with the uplifting, inspirational love song “Celebrate You” that encourages you to fall in love with someone that makes the best of you come out.
This album is full of soaring production that lives up to it’s album name while also giving it a fresh, modern feel. The songwriting focuses around love, excitement and just pure joy. To me it’s one of those albums that if you love pop and disco music, it’s impossible to come away not smiling. Minogue meant for this album to be enjoyable escapism and DISCO is absolutely phenomenal in this regard. It’s easily one of my favorite pop albums of 2020.
AC/DC — POWER UP
I never thought I would get an opportunity to review one of my favorite acts of all-time. The first album I ever enjoyed front to back is AC/DC’s Back In Black and they’re the band I credit for falling in love with rock music. I’m even happier that I get to write positively about their new music, as their last album Rock or Bust was mediocre at best (putting it nicely). Of course there were several issues surrounding this album, as Malcolm Young wad rapidly declining in health. Everybody in the band is getting up in age. And lead singer Brian Johnson lost enough of his hearing that he had to stop touring with the band.
AC/DC is a band you don’t count out though. Angus Young rallied the troops for this album, reuniting the band to cut songs that him and his brother had stored in a vault for years. And thanks to the brilliance of modern technology, Johnson’s hearing was restored. The result: POWER UP showcases this group at their best. There’s anthemic, blaring riffs, strong hooks and powerful vocals. Critics of this band say they never change and well that’s the point. AC/DC has never pretended to be songwriting savants nor producing the most complex chord structure. Their goal has always been pretty simple: providing the anthems to a loud and fun party. They want you to have a good time and forget about the world. And they once again do this with what is most likely their final album.
You know you’re in for something great from opening song “Realize.” You got the signature gang vocals, a grasping energy, catchy riffs and sticky hooks. “Rejection” is a really enjoyable revenge anthem and lead single “Shot In The Dark” has one of the strongest hooks I’ve heard from an AC/DC single in several years. “Through The Mists of Time” immediately caught my eye with it’s very un-AC/DC title, as it seems more like a Led Zeppelin song title. And it’s arguably the best song on the album, as it’s soaring sound gives it a mystical aura around it. The gang vocals are a real treat on “Kick You When You’re Down” and the riff has some real muscle behind it. The buildup on “Demon Fire” is exciting, as the crashing of the drums on the hook makes you want to bang your head in unison. That’s when you know you have a great rock song. Johnson sounds as great as ever on this particular track too. And then the album appropriate concludes with the easy-to-singalong with “Code Red.” I can already picture this being a huge hit live.
This record is a fantastic swan song and a perfect way for a legendary band to take their final bow. The entire band is on their A game and you couldn’t ask for better performances from these guys. I’ve seen some say this one of the group’s best albums and I can absolutely buy this argument. Personally I wouldn’t put it in my top three, but maybe top five. Regardless, I find this album to be quite poetic. Everybody thought this group was done when Bon Scott passed, but then they made their career-defining album in Back In Black. And everybody again thought they were done when Malcolm Young passed amidst other group issues. But once again they have surpassed expectations and made a damn great album.
Cam — The Otherside
I thought my friend Zack at The Musical Divide wrote a fantastic review on this album, as he summed up in great detail the absolute frustrations of this record. So I highly encourage you to read his review. I’ll reiterate one of his main takeaways: man, I really wanted to like this album more. Cam is such a fun and likable artist who brings a lot of sly intelligence to her songwriting (see a song like “My Mistake”). She also did a solid job with producer Jeff Bhasker of mixing country and pop on her debut album.
She once again teams up with Bhasker on The Otherside and the results just aren’t as good. The production on this album is flat and doesn’t stand out in any significant way. It just sort of all blends together, very much reminding of the disappointing sophomore Maddie & Tae album. Outside of “Dianne” (a three-year old song that sounds like it came from a completely different project) and “Like A Movie,” I won’t remember anything else from this album. There’s no wow moment and it’s not that there is any bad songs on this album, it’s just a forgettable record all around. I can remember pretty much remember every song from Untamed.
So unfortunately the sophomore slump has struck with Cam. I wouldn’t be surprised if she bounced back in a big way on the next album, as she’s just too talented to be limited to albums like this one. I hope she switches up producers, as I think it’s needed. Personally, I think she could make some real magic with Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, as I think their approaches would mesh well.
Brent Cobb — Keep ‘Em on They Toes
The same story of Cam’s album above is the case for Brent Cobb’s Keep ‘Em on They Toes. I had high hopes for Cobb after being really impressed by Providence Canyon (an album I hope to one day cover). I will say Cobb does have a good excuse in that this album was basically something he did to kill time during quarantine. But then again there have been plenty of great quarantine albums released too. Just like Cam, Cobb will undoubtedly bounce back. If I had to pick some songs worth listening to from this album, I would pick the title track, “Shut up and Sing” and “The World is Ending.”
Parker McCollum — Hollywood Gold EP
There’s always another artist getting buzz out of the Texas country scenes. For me, these buzz picks tend to be hit and miss. Unfortunately Parker McCollum falls more into the latter. There’s just nothing about this EP that catches my attention. It’s perfectly fine music and it’s not terrible. McCollum has a nice voice. But I could close my eyes and pick a record out of the pile pop country records produced in the last year and I could find an album or EP of songs identical to these ones. Songs like “Young Man’s Blues” and “Hallie Ray Light” of course sound great when you compare it to country radio or if you’re just looking at Texas country. But when you put it up against all of country music, it does not stand out from the crowd enough to catch my attention and keep it.
(Put it like this to give you an insight into my grading: When I give an album a 5 or 6, it’s something I’ll listen to if you play it for me. But I won’t seek it out. If I give an album a 7 or 8, it’s something I can see myself seeking out and listening to six months to a year from now. If I give an album a 9 or 10, it’s something I can see myself seeking out and listening to for years.)
The Cadillac Three — Tabasco & Sweet Tea
I got three song into this album and said nope. I’ll still maintain COUNTRY FUZZ was a solid album though, as it had much better focus and songwriting.
Grade: Don’t bother