Blake Shelton sure knows how to maximize his exposure. With “The Voice” debuting another season this month, Shelton released his seventh studio album at just the right time. People will see him on the show, then realize he has a new album and that may be all it takes to boost his sales and garner new fans. Regardless of how it happens, this album is pretty impressive, and Shelton should be proud of the effort.
Shelton is a likeable guy on “The Voice,” and this album is much the same. You can hear the guy just having fun. “Boys Round Here” has a hip-hop feel not often heard in country music. It also doesn’t hurt to have the Pistol Annies offering backup vocals on the opening track. No matter how you spin it, it’s a catchy song. “Small Town Big Time,” with its loud guitars is just Shelton having a blast. It’s even got a legitimate shot at being a radio hit if he decides to push it.
“Sure Be Cool If You Did” is the first ballad of the album, and it’s also the first track Shelton released ahead of it. It’s done well on the charts and that’s no surprise. Shelton sounds his most comfortable with ballads and slower songs where he’s not rushing through the lyrics. The same can be said for “Do You Remember.” He’s just better when the music is slower.
The album isn’t without mediocrity. “Country On The Radio” is about as generic as country music gets, and feels really phoned in. The same could be said for “Doin’ What She Likes.” Shelton’s attempt at genre hopping falls flat and doesn’t present anything new to listeners, even though it’s clear that that’s what he’s going for. “Lay Low” is another one that’s just too safe. Fortunately, these three songs are the only ones on the album that aren’t up to snuff.
Shelton even lets former “Voice” contestant Gwen Sebastian tag in for a song. “My Eyes” is a melodic love song that, while lyrically unimpressive, is rescued by the harmony between Shelton and Sebastian. It’s infectious.
“I Still Got a Finger” is Shelton’s effort at the classic “I hate my boss and here is how you know” theme. It’s actually a lot of fun and pretty much sums up the feelings of everyone who has ever wanted to tell their boss how they really feel. Actually, this might be the best song on the album for that reason alone.
Now comes “Mine Would Be You,” another ballad, but perhaps the best since Shelton’s hit single “God Gave Me You.” As previously stated, the guy just knows how to do a slow song well. The lyrics are wonderful and Shelton owns them like no one else could. This one’s going to end up being played at a lot of weddings for sure.
“Ten Times Crazier” is not only one of the last songs on the album, it’s the name of Shelton’s upcoming 2013 tour. This one’s about all the things Shelton is “crazy” about, but how none of them measure up to the love of a woman. One has to wonder if this one was for his wife and fellow musician Miranda Lambert.
Shelton brings the album to a close with his signature storytelling ability. “Granddaddy’s Gun” is brilliant from start to finish. It’s a song about a gun that means the world to Shelton like it never could for anyone else. That desire to hold onto a keepsake simply for the fact that it reminds us of our loved ones is incredibly relatable, making this one of Shelton’s best songs to date.
Blake Shelton is a talented musician and this is one of his most complete releases ever. Whether or not he deliberately timed this release to coincide with the latest season of “The Voice” to boost viewership of the show and sales of the album is anyone’s guess. But even if he did, he’s brilliant for doing so, since this album deserves the exposure.
Kyle Drapeau, For The Sun News
Cold War Kids
The Cold War Kids are back.
I’ve missed them.
Granted, they’ve only been gone for two years with their last studio album out in 2011, but two years is a long time to wait for such a unique sound.
“Dear Miss Lonelyhearts” doesn’t release until April 2, but the album was streamed exclusively on HuffPost Entertainment’s website this past week. It made for some really good listening.
Some bands find it difficult to maintain whatever it is they have that made them popular in their first or second albums. Not the Cold War Kids. Lead singer Nathan Willett’s voice helps out tremendously in this area; his voice is unique and haunting and piercing all at once.
What also helps is having an album produced by a band member, Dann Gallucci, who also used to be in Modest Mouse, a band that also boasts its own sound.
If you’re new to the Cold War Kids or have been listening to them since “Robbers and Cowards,” this album is for you. Preorder it on iTunes or buy it April 2. You’ll be glad you did.
P.S. If you listen to only one track, make it the title track. The drum rolls alone make it worth it.
Caroline Evans, firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no question that Ryan Tedder, front man for OneRepublic, is a talented man in every musical sense. He’s written and produced hits for names such as Adele and Beyonce, not to mention his own band, and pretty much everything he touches turns to gold. His band’s latest offering, “Native,” its fourth studio album, is a strong effort, containing both original sounds as well as those heard from the band’s contemporaries.
This 12-track album is brilliantly composed. There’s almost no way to argue against that. The main issue is the album is almost split between songs that sound like they were written for OneRepublic and songs that sound like they were covered by OneRepublic. There is a strong Florence and the Machine vibe in such songs as “If I Lose Myself” and “Feel Again.” Now, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s tough to enjoy this band when all they’re doing is reminding you of another band.
Fortunately, Tedder gets away from this after the first three tracks, and that’s when the album really takes off. “What You Wanted” has the booming live feel that made OneRepublic popular with hits like “Apologize.” The next track, “I Lived,” starts off with an acoustic guitar played at a pace that is very Mumford and Sons, building steadily to a chanted chorus that can only bring images of Coldplay to the forefront of thought.
It’s only once you’ve listened to this album from start to finish more than once that you really appreciate what Tedder and Co. are doing. It’s not that they’re ripping off sounds from other bands and pretending that those sounds are their own. It’s that they just know how to make good traditional alternative rock songs. Tedder hass been writing for other artists for a long time, and everything he’s written for them has been commercially and critically well received.
Take “Au Revoir” as an example. The intro, a soothing piano solo, might first bring up images of Tedder on his knees singing “Secrets,” another of OneRepublic’s numerous hits. Or you might picture Coldplay in your head. Would Tedder like his band to be the first thing you think of when you hear his music? More than likely, but I doubt he’d be offended if he knew some of his songs reminded people of Coldplay. Musically speaking, that’s good company to keep.
Simply put, this is a strong effort from OneRepublic. Every track brings something fresh to the table and Tedder deserves credit for crafting something this complete. You can hear the musical influences in some songs, and the originality of others. The ability to adapt your sound while staying true to your style as well is a good attribute that not all bands have. OneRepublic have no issues here. This one’s worth a listen or two.
Kyle Drapeau, For The Sun News