Monday, June 10, 2019

Alejandro Fuentes-Tomorrow Only Knows (2007)


For the second day in a row, I'm doing a feature presentation on another wonderful talent from the phenomenon that has become these reality music show contests. The same person who highly recommended yesterday's Ardian Bujupi had also suggested that I listen to Alejandro Fuentes, who competed on "Norwegian Idol" already fourteen years. I'm very glad I finally followed through with this recommendation, because this Alejandro guy has an amazing voice and crafts some very beautiful songs on his second proper solo album, "Tomorrow Only Knows". And let me go ahead and begin with the album's spirited pop/rock title track, my first favorite—among many—where he broadcasts his romantic adventures with the girl and the excitement about where all of the dreaming and fooling around he does with her is gonna take him. A Juliet sneaking in through his back door—that classic image put into words is one of the best lines in the whole song. That same pop/rock spirit is in him when he does some serious jammin' on the concluding cut, "Over The Edge". A song about letting go and teaching that time is a healer almost surely has to have a high-energy spunk to it, and that's exactly what you get on this edgy thriller! Yet many of Alejandro's most powerful songs surface when he tones it down a notch. "Here With Me", a strong ballad of reassurance and comfort, is one of them, although it still manages to evolve into an explosively epic piece by the time it reaches the closing movements. I'd have to say the true beauty in his singing ability is experienced, however, on the charming "Easily Shot", the touching one about memories and longing to return to familiar places in "All She Wanted", the intimate story about meeting him at "Harvey's Place" and my second favorite, "All I'm Running For" (I'm such a sucker for these mellow acoustic guitar tunes; I got so lost in the melody and just his tender voice, which stands out extremely well against the soft music). Way before any of those gems, I had been captivated by his engaging voice and his style as soon as I listened to the opener, "Hell If I", where he's determined not to let the girl's departure from his life get him down. And then there's the one that may have allured me the most: "Keep A Candle Burning". There's something so classy about the slight funk arrangement to the music's smooth groove, which gives his poetic words about a flickering light serving as his guide along his path of destiny a magical glow:

1. Hell If I
2. Where I Don't Belong
3. Tomorrow Only Knows
4. Easily Shot
5. All She Wanted
6. Harvey's Place
7. Here With Me
8. Keep A Candle Burning
9. All I'm Running For
10. Over The Edge

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Ardian Bujupi-To The Top (2011)


Now that I'm back on top of things on the music front, I thought I would share a particularly hard-to-come-by digital album that I completely skipped out on a few years back. The German-Albanian singer Ardian Bujupi, who had competed in the ""Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar" music talent show, was introduced to me when I got a recommendation for listening to his song, "This is My Time". Ended up getting the four-track EP, but it hadn't occurred to me that I was missing out on the proper full-length album on which the original studio recording appears. Now that I finally have Ardian's 2011 debut, I've enjoyed another listen to that great opening anthem—him singing about waiting all his life for his dream to come true and putting those gracious, soulful words to an excellent and crisp, club/r&b beat. In fact, that club/r&b sound is his signature music style and turns all of the rest of the songs he performs into an exciting affair! Even more to the fact, I could practically predict every song that would be an energetic dance thriller, judging from the title. It is the 'DJ', for instance, in "Kiss The DJ". Or the idea that he's feeling celebratory and on top of the world on "Rise To The Top", affirmed by the line 'like Bacardi on the rocks' before the chorus. or the idea of partying and getting totally drunk on "Get Wasted". Or the idea that he justs wants to get up and go and blast full speed ahead on "Green Light". Or talking about music itself on "Stereo Love" (well, in a way; he's actually the radio and wants the girl to 'turn him on' all night, to put a play on words there). Besides the dance floor energy and the themes of him wanting to get it on with some female honey in the club—as is the dominating theme on "Freak", "Exotic" and one of my favorite jams, "That Girl"—there's a pained and emotional side of him that surfaces on a pair of slow gems: "I Don't Know" and "Overrated". On the former, he expresses how love is fading when the girl's acting shady, but I was more impressed with his touching message about why he believes some people feel too much importance is placed on love with the breezy r&b piece that is the latter:

1. This Is My Time
2. Kiss The DJ
3. Rise To The Top
4. I Don't Know
5. Overrated
6. Get Wasted
7. Freak
8. That Girl
9. Starlight
10. Stereo Love
11. Green Light
12. Exotic

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Camilla Brinck-Heaven (2001)


Camilla Brinck is another member of the 'Bard Family Tree'—albeit an extended relative—whose solo music accomplishments I don't recall ever checking out. Got a chance to hear a bit of her when she was with the group called NOUVEAU RICHE—which featured ex-ARMY OF LOVERS member Dominika Peczynski, and that's where the Alexander Bard connection comes from—but nothing since then. So, while I'm in the midst of going through the 'Bard Family Tree' bloodline, it seemed that listening to Camilla's "Heaven" album was the next thing in order. And as the album title suggests, there are indeed some mighty heavenly moments to be enjoyed! For starters, the title track itself, which you can't help but to be enticed by when the sweet melody and her even sweeter voice tenderly singing 'heaven must be missing an angel' melting into your ears. Then for bonus kicks, the 'J-Rock Version' turns it into a bombastic r&b jam, complete with a lovely calypso arrangement and scintillating orchestral riffs to give it an epic touch! Listening to "Lose You" is like being lost in a daydream; I myself allowed my senses to bask into the syncopated beat, highlighted by the orchestrated instrumental showcase at the very end. "It Hurts So Bad": Camilla makes this simple ballad piece about her being broken—and the lingering effects of it—sound so good while "Let You Walk Away" is a second fine example how a simple subject—this time, regret—can be transformed into a musically exotic affair (love the drum n' bass and the swirly ambiance, plus the surprise instrumental show in the closing moments). Though before all of these heavenly tunes reigned down on me, the album's first two tracks—"Bye Bye Forever" and "Don't"—already indicated that Swedish pop star would be a delight and had that irresistible girl-group-from-the-early-2000's-era thing going on with her. Further proof lies on the sunny feel-gooder, "I Know That You Love Me", the spicy "Hot Hot" (like how she doubles down with the 'hot hot' and 'spot spot') and the you're-not-in-control-of-me-anymore pleasure, "Tell Me", the last in this trio getting the house groovy 'Good Vibration Remix' treatment for extra thrills:

1. Bye Bye Forever
2. Don't
3. Heaven
4. Reminiscing
5. Tell Me
6. Take Me Home
7. Boy I Turn To You
8. I Know That You Love Me
9. Lose You
10. It Hurts So Bad
11. Let You Walk Away
12. Hot Hot
13. Every Little Thing
14. Heaven (J-Rock Version)
15. Tell Me (Good Vibration Remix)

GRAVITONAS-Garden Of Men And Machines (2014)


While I'm still wondering when THE GRAVITONAS will do a full studio album, it's great to see that Alexander Bard and company keep on cranking out these singles and EP's. I enjoyed my second six pack in as many nights: "Garden Of Men And Machines". And this time, none of the songs were familiar or were songs I'd heard on previous singles. Although I definitely will be getting the single for the opener, "People Are Lonely". It's melody and smooth dance beat I found to be quite soothing, which is a suitable arrangement for the rather gloomy, depressed tone of the lyrics: life being a flashy cocktail, love being drug abuse..... If the music were a person, I could say that it's comforting and consoling the listener, as if to help alleviate the depressed state of mind. "Playing With Fire": I love how these trancey dance jams have that building up in the first few seconds before that explosive, electrifying chorus! My favorite part about this one is when the backup singers shout 'fire!', which somehow got me thinking about music from the disco era. Then there's the most charming song on this EP package" "Castles In The Air". This guitar-driven, orchestra-led ballad is so melodically and romantically heavenly; you can almost feel the words and see the imagery when Andreas and his breathtaking voice sing 'when you touch me, I see castles in the air'. "Smoke In The Mirror": The guitar drives the music to this one as well, and in combination with the soft dance beat, the sunny melody and the colorful lyrics talking about him planning his big escape like a flame from the 'Wizard Of Oz' movie, it makes for a pleasurable listen. "Feed The Lions": The title got my attention first, followed by the the funky, bouncy rhythm of the music, which I got so caught up in that I kinda forgot why Andreas even warns 'you better not feed the lions now' over and over in the actual lyrics themselves. "Antiheroes": When I saw the 'Acoustic Version' tagged on to the title, I immediately assumed there must be pop/dance versions of it. It had also signaled that this album might feature more songs on the acoustic guitar side, which was confirmed earlier with "Castles In The Air". The acoustic style works exceptionally well with Andreas leading the way. For as romantic and heavenly that "Castles In The Air" is, this "Antiheroes", with its imagery of fires burning and such, is very bit as moving and touching on the ears, mind and soul:

1. People Are Lonely (Radio Edit)
2. Playing With Fire
3. Castles In The Air
4. Smoke In The Mirror
5. Feed The Lions
6. Antiheroes (Acoustic Version)

Monday, June 3, 2019

GRAVITONAS-Black Ceremony [EP] (2012)


Recommendations, new explorations or unopened presents? It was pretty much a toss-up between the three, but I went for Option #1 and scrolled down the list of names until I came across a familiar artist: the Swedish project called GRAVITONAS. They are one of several 'children' of the 'Bard Family Tree'—as a fellow fan of the Swedish producer Alexander Bard once called it to me—and it had been quite some time since I tuned in to their music. The last song I heard—and remember the most—is there hit single "Religious"; I even had it saved to my 'Energy Mix' playlist. And it seems there will be new additions to that playlist, now that I've finally treated myself to the group's "Black Ceremony" EP after all this time! I vaguely recall receiving so many Alexander Bard-related treats in such a short period of time that several things got 'lost under the stack', so to speak; that's gotta be what happened in the case of "Black Ceremony", whose six tracks I don't recall ever hearing, including the lead-off jam, "Call Your Name", which had been released as a single itself. Well "Call My Name" sure dialed my number, because I instantly connected with the energetic dance beat and the amazing vocals of lead singer, Andreas Öhrn, whom I've become very fond of listening to (something sparks me in the way he delivers the 'I drown in desire' and 'I flash in the night'). The high-octane energy ignites me again on the concluding cut, "Sacrifice", which is one I felt like I heard back around the time when I was just getting introduced to the 'Bard Family' and going through some serious Swedish pop overdosing. You get a half-and-half with "Live And Let Go"—starts off as a power ballad before it explodes into a bombastic rockin' dance beat in the chorus. As lyrically encouraging and motivational that one is, you're presented with something suspenseful, epic and lyrically intelligent and haunting—picture the imagery of living in danger as a stranger and dancing on fire, as Andreas sings—on "Solitaire". I truly love the passion and emotion Andreas infuses into his words on "Someday Someone". The production is already fantastic, but his voice takes it up to a whole new level. An appropriate statement, considering he's singing to a special someone that a person will come along to elevate that someone's life. Equally as passionate and emotional is "The Pain We Love To Hide". Now THIS is a real power ballad! The title alone already intrigues, so you can't help but to be fully attentive when the hard rock-infused sound begins to seep into your senses; it's like you can almost feel the energy he's needing to release in order to make his statement. Ended up playing these songs twice and in whatever random order I chose, because each one of them is high quality material and is highly recommended by me:

1. Call Your Name
2. Someday Someone
3. The Pain We Love To Hide
4. Solitaire
5. Live And Let Go
6. Sacrifice

Friday, May 31, 2019

Espen Lind-Red (1997)


I am still seeing 'red' after enjoying nearly two full listens to this Norwegian singer's debut album! I had previously enjoyed Espen Lind's "This Is Pop Music" and "April", turning the former into a feature presentation without ever realizing that I hadn't even peeked at the one that started his career discography. So I took care of that last night while deciding that he deserved to make a second appearance here at "The Music Spectrum". The opening track, "Messing With Me", is one that'll get you really excited about the rest of the songs that come afterwards. You'll love the explosive pop/rock groove the instant the music starts, and once you factor in his vocals and his uninhibited expressiveness of his lyrics, the song will soon be messing with you! Had already found the coolest song on this whole album with the follow-up, "Baby You're So Cool". The beat is so amazing, like something ambient and soft rock and r&b-groovy all melded into one; the unique production is surely something that I couldn't readily compare to anything else I've ever heard in a pop song before! Besides that, you'll adore his chilled and casual down-to-earth lyrical delivery, which is highlighted by his spurts of vocal loftiness echoed by the funky deep voice effects in the chorus. At that point, I was totally unprepared for the touching ballad piece, "When Susannah Cries". As usual with these sad songs, I was drawn to the mellow overtones and felt my own heart being affected as Espen poured out his moving, poetic words, which are put to some mighty epic background music led by the scintillating orchestra and the striking guitar accompaniment. Only thing is, the song seemed to be over too soon, which is why I immediately helped myself to a second playback right afterwards! There's another sad but epic and beautiful piece that I adore just the same: "Missing Her Then". The melody is simply marvelous; I particularly was impressed with the woodwind or whatever instrument that merrily plays along with the music. "Niki's Theme" got a couple of playbacks from me as well, as I've lately been attracted to these ambient, airy selections that makes my ears feel like they're floating above the clouds someplace. It's a sharp return to that intense pop/rock energy—which I experienced with the opening "Messing With You"—on "All I Want Is An Angel". It's a fun song to jam to once you take in his cheerful and confident I'm-on-top-of-the-world vibe he thrusts into the lyrics. So I mentioned earlier that "Baby You're So Cool" had already been the coolest track on this album? Make that two coolest tracks on this album, as I gotta make room for "It's A Damn Shame About You". A song with that title couldn't be performed any better than the way Espen performs it here, reeling off a list of things in the world that he has no control over and/or are just unfortunate happenings—including Elvis!—before making it crystal clear that the girl is the most important thing to him. The music is absolutely great, too, and when this poptastic thrill eventually finishes with the repeated chants of the title, you'll be left in a state of sweet satisfaction:

1. Messing With Me
2. Baby You're So Cool
3. When Susannah Cries
4. Lucky For You
5. Missing Her Then
6. American Love
7. Niki's Theme
8. All I Want Is An Angel
9. It's A Damn Shame About You
10. The Buffalo Tapes (My So-Called Friends)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sydney Youngblood-Passion Grace And Serious Bass (1991)


There was some seriously sweet tunes that came out of the early 90's, and my third share of the day sees me reliving some of those sounds that I surely miss. Returning for his second appearance here at "The Music Spectrum" is Sydney Youngblood, a guy whom I feel I haven't listened to enough of in my musical lifetime. I would've gotten around to him again once I resumed getting the 'S' entries in my library updated, but the presence of his "Passion Grace And Serious Bass" album already ripped and digitally available on my hard drive accelerated that notion. The 'passion and grace' side of him is revealed as soon as the opening track, "Hooked On You", and the romantically smooth and soulful follow-up, "Wherever You Go". Then it's time for the 'serious bass' on "Not Just A Lover" (boy, I sure miss these 90's house jams!), which it full of brilliant moments—from the dynamic vocal range he shows off to even the lovely calypso-style bell arrangement during the instrumental break. The mid-tempo groove he mid-tempo groove "It Ain't Easy" has some stunning vocal moments as well, me myself loving how his voice explodes with his delivery of 'together' and the thoughtful tribute he pays to Sylvester's disco hit from the 70's when he sings 'you will feel mighty real'. Another thing I miss about the 90's (and the 80's as well, for that matter): those important concept songs for society to embrace and to think about. On "Let's Come Together", the message is talking about what love is good for while "Why can't This Be?" deals with the question of why we're unable to live together in peaceful harmony with so many problems being caused. There's a distinct trio of songs that make me blissfully happy: "Sunshine" (something uplifting about the groove and the way Sydney delivers 'sunshine of my revelation'), "Just A Dream" (is it me, or do I notice that the chords and arrangement, at least in the verses, are reminiscent of MR. MISTER's "Broken Wings"?) and my personal favorite, "Lonely" (like how this one starts off as a semi-acapella with just the drum beat—which shows off his beautiful voice—before the dreamy ambiance sweeps in later). "Hold On To Your Heart" is a beautiful listen as well; I should give it the playback treatment because I was so caught up in the delicious vocals—that of Sydney and his background singers—and the song's production. "Wonderful World" gives you a second helping of that 'serious bass' that the 90's house era was praised for. And as for a surprise treat, you get a charming acapella rockabilly soul cover of the Elvis Presley classic, "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear":

1. Hooked On You
2. Wherever You Go
3. Not Just A Lover
4. It Ain't Easy
5. Let's Come Together
6. Why Can't This Be?
7. Sunshine
8. Lonely
9. Wonderful World
10. Hold On To Your Heart
11. That's What They Always Say
12. Just A Dream
13. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

LAVANTGARDE-Inside Out (2004)


While I was listening to Niels Van Gogh's "Frequenzklang" album earlier this morning, my curiosity about his featured singers prompted me to peek into the discography of Alexander Pfahler. And when I realize he'd been a member of an electronic synthpop group called LAVANTGARDE (who also went by the alias L'IMAGE), the link had been drawn and my new discovery was born! Though I felt like I might've come across this duo before. Maybe I have, although a glance at my music library told me that I didn't own any of their music before I acquired their 2004 release, "Inside Out". Knew right away that I was gonna enjoy this one, my ears being sparked by the noticeably 80's sound of the sunny, lofty opener, "Recall The Night", where I'd get introduced to LAVANTGARDE's distinctively robotic vocal style. In fact, it was the colorful array of electronic arrangements and the airy melodies of these songs that pleased me the most. "Our Fate (Final)", in particular, is an explosive kaleidoscope of sounds and textures, enhanced by the swirly ambiance and the fast-tempo trance beat. "Take Me S.I.M.": I immediately saw that the acronym in the title was their stylistic way of saying 'as I am'; besides that, I really like the melody, which prevails over everything else. I determined that the dreamy, sunny and melodic was LAVANTGARDE's signature forte once when I got to the mid-tempo piece "Dedicated"; their vocals are picture perfect for these airy songs. About at the halfway through the album, however, is when a slew of excellent selections swept into my senses. Started with "Not Enough", whose funky bass beneath the glitzy arrangement captivated me first before I found myself being captured by the monotonic vocals as he sings about expecting too much from life and trying to give his best; you can feel the songwriter's gloom, disappointment and misery. The tone is thematically gloomy later on "Things Have Changed (Again)", despite the bright and uplifting sound, as he longs to turn back the hands of time to when he was a young boy; bittersweet sums up the mood to that one. The forever instrumental music lover in me was happy to have basked in both the non-vocal track, "Somewhere Out There", and the groovy thrill that "Airs And Graces" turns out to be following its fade-in intro and once he starts singing about dancing in the disco light. Jut as I was charmed by the words to "Not Enough", I was equally attentive to the slow-tempo piece "Live Your Life (Rebirth)", which encourages to take chances right now at this very moment. A good idea for them to take a more darker and serious approach with the rather suspenseful, unsettling arrangement. Looks like I've pretty much turned this whole album inside out for you and given you the scoop on what your ears will soon be indulging in:

1. Recall Of Night
2. Our Fate (Final)
3. Take Me S.I.M.
4. Dedicated
5. Make Love Your Religion
6. Not Enough
7. Somewhere Out There
8. Live Your Life (Rebirth)
9. Airs And Graces
10. Things Have Changed Again
11. The World We Live In