First Impressions: November 2012

Life happens and things run late. Sorry about the delay on this.

My life just altered significantly and my music-listening opportunities have dropped off, but I hope it’s only temporary. The first week of November releases was weak, which is why we were on break, but First Impressions is back. No intro, just this.

Nov. 20

Rihanna – Unapologetic

Rating – We can now compare her to The Beatles and Jay-Z

This album is not on Spotify. Already, I’m having to go to lengths of which I am uncomfortable to get a hold of this album. The good: “Diamonds” is my new guilty pleasure. It’s a perfect stand-tall and feel triumphant anthem, and we all apply it to ourselves anyway. But that song is track two, and after the disappointing Eminem cameo on “Numb,” there was nothing to look forward to and the rest was just background noise. “Love Without Tragedy” is good, surely reminiscing about the Chris Brown relationship, but nothing else stuck.

You may be wondering about the Jay-Z/ Beatles comparison. It’s actually a negative. There is a reason it takes most artists several years to release albums: because most of their music is crap. Every band has hundreds of songs and demos that you will never hear and it ultimately benefits the final product through trial and error. Then there are some who release albums every single year and, in all honesty, it’s not all good. The artists mentioned above have done some brilliant things, but I could do without a lot of it. Let’s throw Green Day’s recent three-headed blah-fest in here, too. Also, seeing you on the charts year after year is boring. If money weren’t a factor, Rihanna probably would be less inclined to bombard the airwaves and compile some more gems (see what I did there).

Kid Rock – Rebel Soul

Rating – Don’t judge this book by its cover. Don’t you dare

Over time, certain genres deteriorate to the point where the followers are looked at as buffoons. Kid Rock may have an eclectic, if not segmented, following, but why does this album feel so good? He has etched himself into this realm of rock n’ roll, blues and a little soul. It’s not as country as Born Free from a couple of years ago, but it definitely borders on it at times. After listening to the album, you get to “Mirror,” which is a melodic synth-y ballad with some AutoTune. Somehow, even in the confines of the album, it works. If I’m ever throwing a cookout dance party, “Rebel Soul,” “Celebrate,” and “Mr. Rock n Roll” are getting some heavy play.

Nov. 13

Soundgarden – King Animal

Rating – Much needed, despite the awkward timing

As a child, I grew up with Soundgarden and the late 80s, early rock that went with it. Years later, Audioslave came out and I was a Chris Cornell fan for life. His solo career saw a different side – some acoustic gems and a collaboration with Timbaland. It forever reshaped the way I viewed music. Throw in some Temple of the Dog and the old Soundgarden albums, and I was set with a formidable Cornell colleciton. Their unforeseen reunion after 16 years should have come as a welcome surprise, but I remain shamefully unmoved.

It has nothing to do with the album itself, it’s a necessary taste of good-‘ol rock-and-roll. But as a progressive listener, I need to be in the mood. Just listen to it yourself. Like No Doubt in October, it does raise the question on how we get along without certain bands for so long. For the purists, King Animal will be the nostalgic departure you need.

Christina Aguilera – Lotus

Rating – Right tool for the right job

I begin with my mention of Xtina’s previous album on the 2010 music review:

P.o.S. of the Year-

Christina Aguilera- Bionic

Blessed with a magnificent voice and all you do with it is rap and sing about boys being icky. “You Lost Me” is the only salvageable track. She lost me on everything else.

My father once told me to use the right tool for the right job, and in Xtina’s case, that means use your stellar pipes and suit your music to it. AutoTune and scat-rapping are wasted efforts with such pure vocals. She said Lotus was a “full-circle” album where she had to express herself in different musical outlets before returning to equilibrium. We are a long way removed from the “Genie in a Bottle” masterpiece, but this was a good pop album. It follows every formula you would expect, as some songs could have showed up on a Katy Perry or Britney Spears album. But this woman is an incredible singer, and sometimes, no matter what comes out of that mouth, it makes all the difference.

Aaron Lewis – The Road

Rating – This is country

Yes, this is a country album. But it’s Aaron Lewis, lead singer from Staind, so there’s a viable excuse.

His first solo endeavor, Town Line, came out last year and surprised a lot of people with how well the somber rocker conformed to the country twang. Then Staind followed with their heaviest album in years and I thought the dirt-road patriotic reflections from Aaron Lewis was gone. Picking up where the last solo album left off, The Road makes country music cool. “Endless Summer,” “75,” “Party in Hell,” “Red, White & Blue.” I feel like draping an American flag over my chest in pride.

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