By Kenny Garner
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
If you told me a few years ago that the next biggest pop sensation would be an angsty teenager who defies the typical stereotype of a popstar, I wouldn’t have believed you. Here we are, though, and Billie Eilish is the biggest name in pop music today. After the massive success of “When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, Billie Eilish returns with her second studio album “Happier Than Ever”. A sonically diverse expedition, this record is depressively haunting yet beautifully euphoric and nostalgic. The slow tempos provide a fitting canvas for the dark lyrical content that explores the disillusionment brought along with fame. Billie’s voice shines on this record as she consistently rocks her therapeutic lower register, assuring specialty for the moments when she hits her high notes, such as on the hard rock-inspired title track and “Oxytocin”. My only gripe for this album, and it’s not a major one, is the length. One or two songs could’ve been cut from this album, and it’d still be as good as it is. Some of these songs tend to blend into one another, and a shorter track list would’ve benefitted in that regard. Other than that, Billie Eilish proves her debut project was no fluke with “Happier Than Ever”, and her critics are just going to have to deal with her success.
Favorite Tracks: Billie Bossa Nova, Lost Cause, NDA, Therefore I Am
Royal Blood – Typhoons
British rock band Royal Band is back with their third album, “Typhoons”. I like that the duo decided to steer the boat in a different direction with this project, adding dance-rock elements to complement their bass-driven hard rock sound. The lyrical content on this album is noticeably darker than their previous two records, exploring themes such as addiction and mental illness as well as recovery. The electronic elements create a fun atmosphere, creating a nice contrast from the darker lyrical content. It’s as if the band is celebrating a new, clean chapter in their careers. All the elements on this record connect, from the electronic instrumentation to the fuzzy bass guitar to the vocal harmonies and melodies. The addition of female backing vocals on tracks “Oblivion” and “Mad Visions” is pleasing to the ear and Mike Kerr’s lead vocals sound better than ever. The closing track “All We Have Now” is a nice change of pace for this record, with a beautiful keyboard instrumental providing a nice canvas for the mellow vocals. Overall, “Typhoons” is a solid album that I suspect will become a classic in the Royal Blood discography in the decades to come.
Favorite Tracks: Typhoons, Who Needs Friends, Limbo, Boilermaker
Between The Buried And Me – Colors II
Fourteen years after “Colors”, progressive metal band Between The Buried And Me comes at us again with its sequel “Colors II”. While this album doesn’t break any new ground in the prog genre like its predecessor, it carries many of the same unique features, drawing inspirations from other genres such as pop and jazz as well as adopting a similar album structure. Every song on this record is musically connected, and that may be disruptive if you’re listening on a free app such as Spotify with ads. Despite the connections, there is plenty of diversity on this album. Lead single “Fix The Error” presents a punk-inspired lyrical journey through an apocalyptic city with not only a bass solo but three drum solos by three different drummers. Unpredictability is widespread on this record as well; “Monochrome”, for example, is a slow keyboard-driven rocker that welcomes us to the listening party before introducing us to the full-blown death metal massacre “The Double Helix of Extinction”. It’s quite an enjoyable massacre, might I add. While the length may color this project too exhausting for some listeners, in the right head space, “Colors II” becomes a technical triumph that gets better with each listen.
Favorite Tracks: Revolution In Limbo, Fix The Error, Never Seen / Future Shock, Human Is Hell (Another One With Love)
Wait! There’s more. If the previous reviews weren’t rapid enough for you, I’ve decided to make these next two reviews even more rapid for the sake of all rapidness (let’s pretend that makes sense).
Leprous – Aphelion: It’s a shame this progressive metal band from Norway isn’t more popular, because Leprous has everything a band should need to be a major force in the mainstream rock scene. With the diverse “Aphelion”, Leprous explores the unexplored once again, mixing heavy prog with popular genres like trip hop and synth-pop. The biggest highlight here, though, is Einar Solberg’s killer vocal melodies. 8.5/10
- Cole – The Off-Season: It sounds like J. Cole was aiming for technical proficiency rather than deep lyricism with this project, and I can’t say I’m mad about that. The flow here is fantastic and there’s some killer rhythm on this record. J. Cole has built a perfect set-up for the upcoming “The Fall Off” with “The Off-Season” and, most importantly, is continuing to cement his legacy in the history of rap. 7.5/10