Thursday, August 30, 2007

Billboard Hot 100 Analysis, 9/8/2007

1. Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie

Yay!!! After 4 weeks poised at #2, Fergie finally climbs to the top spot, earning her third #1 Hot 100 hit. "Big Girls Don't Cry" is arguably her biggest, most accessible hit single, having already spent 8 weeks at #1 on the top 40 airplay chart. The single is also #1 this week on the Billboard Adult top 40 and recently hit #2 in the UK, making it her biggest hit in Britain. Additionally, it has hit #1 in countries like Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, making it her biggest hit internationally. Held back by "Hey There Delilah" and "Beautiful Girls," Fergie took her time hitting #1 with this single; "London Bridge" hit #1 in its third week, "Glamorous" hit #1 in its 9th week, but "Big Girls Don't Cry" took a leisurely 19 weeks to reach #1.

With this single, The Dutchess becomes the first album from a female artist to land three #1 hits since Christina Aguilera's 1999 debut did it with "Genie in a Bottle," "What a Girl Wants," and "Come on Over Baby." I can think of only four female artist's albums that managed four #1s: Whitney Houston's Whitney, Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, and Mariah Carey's eponymous debut. No female artist has ever had five #1s from one album, in fact that only act that ever has is Michael Jackson with Bad.

2. Crank That - Soulja Boy

I don't anything about this song, but thank god it didn't keep Fergie from getting her #1. I just listened to the iTunes sample; sounds awful.
3. Stronger - Kanye West
"Stronger" climbs another two spots to #3. It's his biggest hit since his 2005 chart-topper, "Gold Digger." Kanye's third album, Graduation, is due September 11, the same week as 50 Cent's third album, Curtis. Despite not being a hip-hop fan, I actually really like this song, which liberally samples from Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger."
11. Rock Star - Nickelback
Nickelback is on the cusp of having their third top 10 hit from their latest album, All the Right Reasons, following #2 hit "Photograph" and #8 "Far Away." Along with top 20 hits "Savin' Me" and "If Everyone Cared," their latest album, having scored five top 40 hits, has far surpassed its other two major albums in its ability to generate hits, both of which each only had one top 40 hit: "How You Remind Me" from Silver Side Up and "Someday" from The Long Road.
16. Who Knew - Pink
2006 has been a renaissance year for Pink's Fourth album I'm Not Dead. Who'd have known the album's title would foretell its singles' performance. First single "Stupid Girls" hit #15 last year, but its follow-up, "Who Knew," petered out at a measly #95, marking the project as all but dead in the US while it continued to rack up hits abroad. Then came slow-burning "U+Ur Hand," which became Pink's 7th top 10 hit--and the album's biggest single--earlier this year, breathing new life into her career, and sending the re-release of "Who Knew" up the chart the way it deserved.
31. You Are the Music in Me - Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens
34. Gotta Go My Own Way - Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens
So the High School Musical 2 soundtrack's tracks didn't invade the Hot 100 the way its predecessor's soundtrack did, but it still scored three Hot 100 hits, including these two duets by its stars. The album's first single, "What Time is It?" initially hit #6 five weeks ago, but falls out of the top 40 this week. Zac Efron is just outside the top 40 at #46 with "Bet on It."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Personal Chart, 9/1/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (6 wks @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring Keri Hilson & DOE
4 .... 3 .... With Every Heartbeat - Robyn (with Kleerup)
5 ... 11 ... Hold On - KT Tunstall
6 ... 10 ... Stronger - Kanye West
7 .... 5 .... 1973 - James Blunt
8 ... 12 ... Suburban Knights - Hard-Fi
9 .... 9 .... Lovestoned - Justin Timberlake
10 .. 6 .... Rehab - Amy Winehouse

Monday, August 27, 2007

Into the Wild

I'm so glad the summer movie season is almost over and time for fall--the real movie season--to begin. Here's fall's first promising film, Into the Wild, adapted from the Jon Krakauer book about a young man from northern Virginia who ran away from his life on a trek to find himself that ultimately led to the wilderness of Alaska and his death.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Album Review: High School Musical 2 Soundtrack (3.5/5)

Already on its way to becoming the biggest selling album of the year like its predecessor (it's first week sales bow was the second-biggest of the year after Linkin Park's), the High School Musical 2 packs in the pop hooks, making the music the best part of the TV film sequel (the showy film is good, but lacks the magic of the first).

Opening cast number "What Time Is It," a standout celebration of the arrival of summer, gets the set started with high energy and style and a fun percussive mid-section. Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay) gets three numbers almost all to her self here. The first and best is "Fabulous," an ode to luxury draped with "Jimmy Choo Flip Flops" and other assorted imports. We'll have to wait for the DVD (or search You Tube) for her other big number, "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a," the too-silly bonus track.

Zac Efron (Troy) and Vanessa Hudgens (Gabriella) get their share of mid-tempo balladry, delivering the other standout, "You Are the Music in Me," a sweet piano and guitar song that celebrates what Troy and Gabriella's relationship is all about: innocent love blossomed from the shared discovery of their musical talent. It outshines their breakup number, "Gotta Go My Way," and the climactic (unfortunately anticlimactic) "Everyday."

"I Don't Dance" is this album's "Get Your Head in Game"--the sports themed number ("hey batter batter, hey batter batter swing)--this time equating baseball with dancing over a clever blend of swing and hip-hop, refreshingly sung by two supporting characters Lucas Grabeel (Ryan) and Corbin Bleu (Chad). Efron gets his own number in the moody "Bet on It," which sounds like something N'Sync could have recorded before they broke up.

Best: You Are the Music in Me, What Time Is It, I Don't Dance, Fabulous, Gotta Go My Own Way, Bet on It

Album Review: Feist - My Reminder (3.5 / 5)

Canadian indie singer Leslie Feist has an amazing voice, at one moment sweet and gentle and at other powerfully crooning over this set of acoustic folksy pop songs, her second major label album. I prefer the album's jaunty upbeat tracks, such as "I Feel It All" or the album's hit single, "1,2,3,4," which is a fun mix of piano and handclaps. "My Moon My Man," underscored by sharp bass piano chords and low guitar chords, is another highlight, if not the best song. "Sea Lion Woman," a Nina Simone remake, is another fun hip shaker.

Some of the slower songs get a little too dreary, and she'd be better served by reigning in her voice a bit more at times--more noticeable if you're listening to this in the background rather than with headphones. Slower "So Sorry" is a good opening number, but other slows songs like "The Park" and "The Water," while not bad songs, drag on a little too long. Better is the dramatic, string- and piano-backed "The Limit to Your Love" or the leisurely closing number "How My Heart Behaves."

Best: My Moon My Man, 1,2,3,4, I Feel It All, Sea Lion Woman, The Limit to Your Love

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Billboard: Brace Yourself for HSM2

The High School Musical 2 soundtrack will impact Billboard charts tomorrow. The album will surely top the Billboard 200 albums chart, likely with the biggest first-week sales of the year, but how many of the film's songs will make the Billboard Hot 100?

In February 2006 when the first movie's soundtrack bowed, nine of the songs made the Billboard Hot 100, including five in the top 40, led by the #4 placing of Troy and Gabriella's "Breaking Free." Top 10 nods seem possible for the big Zac and Vanessa duets this time around: "You Are the Music in Me" and "Gotta Go On My Own Way." I also personally like "What Time Is It?," but its iTunes sales aren't as strong.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

MTV VMA Nominees

MTV Music Video Awards nominees for Video on the Year.

1. Irreplaceable - Beyoncé

Simple, yet gorgeously filmed. Beyoncé looks good, which is of course, the important thing here. Tells somewhat of a story about Beyoncé kicking some guy out of her mansion. I thought it was pretty good until near the end she invites a whole bunch of friends over for a jam session. Who ends a relationship and then feels like having a party right afterwards? He must have been a real jerk.

2. D.A.N.C.E. - Justice

The obvious outlier of the group--the one that wasn't a major hit--but clearly gets the nod for its cute special effect: animated T-shirts.

3. Umbrella - Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z

Fairly minimalist approach here--much of the video consists of water effects with a black background, playing up the rain thing, with lots of umbrellas of course. Then there's the metallic body paint, but that's been done (See Goldfinger, or if that's too old for you, RHCP's "Give It Away") and doesn't go with the rest of it, despite it looking cool. My least favorite so far.

4. What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake

Epic, movie-like videos can be a lot of fun when they're well-done, and this one is, telling even a somewhat interesting story while being visually interesting and includng some real actors (Scarlet Johansson and Shawn Hatosy). My favorite so far.

5. Stronger - Kanye West

Kanye West, Daft Punk, Japan, technology, robots, stylish clothes, and funny sunglasses. That's what this bizarre video is all about. Cool looking, but senseless.

6. Rehab - Amy Winehouse

Amy and her band hang out in her stylishly appointed flat. Great to see Amy nominated here, but this video, while cool-looking, isn't her best.

My ranking:
1. Justin
2. Beyoncé
3. Kanye
4. Justice
5. Amy
6. Rihanna

Personal Chart, 8/25/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (6 wks @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... With Every Heartbeat - Robyn (with Kleerup)
4 .... 4 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Feat. Keri Hilson & DOE
5 ... 13 ... 1973 - James Blunt
6 .... 7 .... Rehab - Amy Winehouse
7 .... 8 .... Green Light (Freemasons Remix) -Beyoncé
8 .... 5 .... When You're Gone - Avril Lavigne
9 ... 10 ... Lovestoned - Justin Timberlake
10 .. 15 .. Stronger - Kanye West

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hardi-Fi "Suburban Knights"

Do you like Hard-Fi? Their first album, Stars of CCTV was one of 2005's best. This the first single from their second album; it's called "Suburban Knights"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Personal Chart, 8/18/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (6 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 7 .... Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse
3 .... 8 .... With Every Heartbeat - Robyn (with Kleerup)
4 .... 5 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring Keri Hilson & DOE
5 .... 2 .... When You're Gone - Avril Lavigne
6 .... 3 .... Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
7 .... 9 .... Rehab - Amy Winehouse
8 ... 14 ... Green Light (Freemasons Remix) - Beyoncé
9 .... 4 .... Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control) - Mutya Buena & Groove Armada (1 week @ #1)
10 .. 13 .. Lovestoned - Justin Timberlake

Jamie Scott & The Town

Did a certain former No Andrews Band frontman change his name and become British? Actually this is Jamie Scott and the Town's video for "Weeping Willow." Their new single, "When Will I See Your Face Again," is out soon.

They tried to make her go to rehab...

Amy Winehouse may be in trouble. A British tabloid reported that last week she overdosed on a combination of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine "washed down with whisky and vodka" during a night out in London. The incident apparently led to short-term hospitalization, although of course, without rehab. She's also canceled a string of recent appearances, including today as the supporting act for The Rolling Stones. I used to think the druggie/boozer thing was just an act: how could she become an international star--clearly something she is working hard at and that takes a tremendous amount of energy and commitment--but really be a junkie?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Remi Nicole "Go Mr. Sunshine"

Cute video from Remi Nicole. She sounds like the next Lily Allen, but the video is very White Stripes.

UK Chart Analysis, 8/18/2007

1. With Every Heartbeat - Robyn (with Kleerup)

An amazing chart-topping week for Swedish singer Robyn this week, who climbs 4 spots to land her first UK #1 hit. It's a simple electronic/pop song that gets under your skin with repeated listens. Robyn's previous biggest hit was "Show Me Love," (not to be confused with the late '90s dance hit, "Show Me Love" by Robin S.) a top 10 hit early in 1998. Robyn was also a hit in the US at that time with that single and another top 10 hit, "Do You Know (What It Takes)."

2. The Way I Are - Timbaland (feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.)

Timbaland loses the #1 spot after 2 weeks at the top. It's interesting to note that 5 of the top 7 songs in the UK and US are the same this week. Timbaland, #2 in the UK is #4 in the US; Fergie is #5 in the UK, #2 in the US; Plain White T's is #6 in Britain, #3 in America; Rihanna is #7 in the UK, #5 in the US; and...

3. Stronger - Kanye West

Kanye West debuts at #3 with "Stronger," while in the same week debuts at #6 in the top 40 portion of the Billboard Hot 100. Featured appearances aside, this is Kanye West's 6th top 10, and second highest-charting, next to the #2 hit "Gold Digger." It gets a physical release Monday, so #1 next week is a distinct possibility.

4. Foundations - Kate Nash

Kate Nash finally tumbles from her #2 perch. She's smiling about it though, as the single that couldn't reach #1 propels her debut album, Made of Bricks, to the top of the UK albums chart this week.

11. Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna

Rihanna climbs a few more spots to #11 this week. The single is still a ways away from physical release on August 27th, but it will face tough competition that week: Singles out on 8/27 include the latest from Plain White T's, KT Tunstall, Natalie Imbruglia, Athlete, Sean Kingston, P Diddy, Maroon 5, and the third in the latest series of Elivis re-releases.

12. Green Light - Beyonce

Beyonce climbs 5 spots to #12, just missing out of the top 10 with her fifth B'Day single, propelled mostly by the brilliant disco remix of the song by the Freemasons.

20. On the Verge of Something Wonderful - Darren Hayes

Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes returns with his 7th solo single, first from his forthcoming third album. At #20, it matches the peak of his third single, "I Miss You" to tie as his lowest-charting. His only top 10 as a soloist remains his first single, the #8 hit "Insatiable."

21. Love is Gone - David Guetta

David Guetta made a name for himself last year with his #3 hit "Love Don't Let Me Go (Walking Away)," a mash-up between his single "Love Don't Let Me Go" and The Egg's "Walking Away." Now he's back with "Love is Gone," which should climb next week on its physical release. Despite it being Ibiza season, and a good number of dance tunes out right now, few have actually risen to hit status. Yves Larock's "Rise Up," for example, had been touted as one of the summer's biggest dance numbers, but managed to peak at only #13 last week. David Guetta could change that, as could...

27. I Found U - Axwell

...Axwell, who debuts at #27 this week also hits the shops Monday. Another good dance tune.

23. Spider Pig - Hans Zimmer

Not the gloss over this, but novelty record "Spider Pig" from The Simpsons Movie, actually manages to climb this week, up one spot to #23.

Monday's biggest physical releases:

Stronger - Kanye West
Love Is Gone - David Guetta
Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse
I Found U - Axwell
Same Girl - R. Kelly with Usher
Let Me Out - Ben's Brother
Elvis - Heartbreak Hotel and Suspicious Minds

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Upcoming Album Releases

Here's what's on the early fall new release schedule.

Sept 3
Hard-Fi - Once Upon a Time in the West. Hard-Fi broke out big in the UK with their debut, Stars of CCTV. This second disc surely has the most unusual cover art of the season. Preceded by single "Suburban Knights."

Athlete - Beyond the Neighbourhood. Third album from Athlete, preceded by first single "Hurricane."

Sept 10
Kanye West - Graduation.
50 Cent - Curtis. It's rap showdown week, in an all-around busy week for new releases. Kanye West will try to repeat the success of his first two albums, The College Dropout and Late Registration--both of which were Grammy Album of the Year nominees--while 50 Cent will try to maintain his commercial success record. 50 Cent has actually faltered with this release, which has spawned no less than 4 singles already in the US. The latest, "Ayo Technology" featuring Justin Timberlake, finally appears to be the one to become a hit. Kanye West has a current top 10 hit, "Stronger."

*KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic. KT Tunstall was one of 2005's biggest new artists. This is her second album, featuring first single "Hold On."

Natalie Imbruglia - Glorious: The Singles 1997 - 2007. Hard to believe it's been 10 years in the music limelight for Aussie Natalie Imbruglia, but here she is leading this fall's pack of greatest hits sets. Surely to include hits like "Shiver" and "Torn" as well as new single "Glorious."

Go! Team - Proof of Youth.
Eve - Here I Am
Plain White T's - Every Second Counts

Sept 17
*James Blunt - All the Lost Souls. James Blunt was another of 2005's biggest breakouts with his debut Back to Bedlam and its massive international hit, "You're Beautiful." Second album is preceded by the great first single "1973." Tom Rothrock returns as producer.

*Reverend and the Makers - State of Things. Reverend and the Makers had a great summer single in "Heavyweight Champion of the World," and I'm looking forward to their debut album.

Booty Luv - Boogie 2 Nite.

Sept 24
Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Shapeshifters – Do Not Disturb

Oct 1
*Annie Lennox – Songs Of Mass Destruction. I'm crossing my fingers this will be fantastic. First single is "Dark Road," which I haven't heard yet. Album also features charity single "Sing," which features 23 female artists, big names like Madonna, Dido, Fergie, the Sugababes, Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, kd lang, Shakira, Pink, Bonnie Raitt, etc.

Stereophonics - Pull the Pin. Stereophonics release their sixth album, preceded by early single "Bank Holiday Monday."

Katie Melua - Pictures.

Oct 8
Jennifer Lopez - Brave. J.Lo returns with her fifth English album. She stumbled a bit with the last one, Rebirth, so is surely looking for a hit. First single "Do It Again" just debuted at radio.

Subababes - TBA. As yet untitled fifth album. No news yet.

Oct 15
Nelly – Brass Knuckles
Nicole Scherzinger - Her Name Is Nicole

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

UK Chart Analysis, 8/11/2007

1. The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring Keri Hilson and D.O.E.

Timbaland spends a second week at #1 in Britain with "The Way I Are." He is the first artist so far to have more than one #1 hit this year, his first, "Give it to Me" with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado having come in April. This is actually a better song. Check out the UK radio version, which has a fun finish.

2. Foundations - Kate Nash

Kate Nash spends a fifth week at #2 without any weeks at the top. I can't recall a recent song having done so. Don't feel sorry for her though--#2 ain't bad.

3. Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie

Fergie climbs back up a spot to #3. The single peaked at #2 three weeks ago, making it her biggest UK hit, followed by "London Bridge" (#3) and "Glamorous" (#6) ("Fergalicious" has not had a UK release). In the US this song is now spending its fifth week atop the Top 40 airplay chart, making it her biggest hit yet at radio.

4. Umbrella - Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z

It's on its way down now, but I can't not take note of the amazing accomplishment this single has been in the UK this summer. Before being dethroned by Timbaland, "Umbrella" spent 10 consecutive weeks at #1, making it the 6th longest running #1 single of all time (a three-way tie with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and "Cara Mia" by David Whitfield). That beats the 9 week stay at the top last year for Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" to make it the decade's longest-running #1, longest in fact since 1994's "Love Is All Around" by Wet Wet Wet, which spent 15 weeks at the top.

5. With Every Heartbeat - Robyn

I wrote about Robyn a few days about, but here she is with her biggest UK single ever. The only thing that comes close is "Show Me Love," also her biggest US hit, which made #8 in the UK back in the magical spring of 1998 (magical because that was when I was there, duh). #1 next week? A possibility for sure.

7. Dream Catch Me - Newton Faulkner

A solid placement for newcomer Brit singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner. Great song too. Perhaps he's this year's James Morrison (who was last year's James Blunt).

10. Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's

The recent US #1 now becomes a UK top 10 hit. Nice song, although I'm afraid it's getting old.

11. Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) - Mika

Interesting. This single peaked last week at #9 despite having been #1 on the airplay chart for the last few weeks. Mika seems to be another artist who's first single sells buckets but whose subsequent singles--despite good airplay support--fail to live up. Same thing happened with James Blunt and the Scissor Sisters latest album.

17. Green Light - Beyonce

I wrote about this on my blog earlier too. Love it. #17 is a bit disappointing though. Perhaps it could climb? I hear there's no physical release planned, so maybe not.

21. Gotta Work - Amerie

Explosive follow-up to top 10 hit "Take Control." Too bad it wasn't top 10 too, as I like this song.

24. Spider Pig - Hans Zimmer

This has to be one of the most bizarre (and shortest) UK top 40 singles ever. It's taken from the soundtrack to The Simpsons Movie, and consists of a choir singing the "Spider Pig" song to the tune of the Spider-Man theme that Homer sings in the movie.

37. Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse

This doesn't get a physical release until next week and it's #1 on the UK airplay chart this week, so Amy's probably hoping it will beat the #25 peak of her last single, "Back to Black." If she's paying attention that is.

Beyonce's "Green Light"

I can't get enough of Beyonce's new British single, "Green Light (Freemasons Remix)." The video is below. I actually wasn't that interested in B'Day when it came out about a year ago, but I've gotten into it lately. I also really like "Get Me Bodied," her current American single. The Freemasons have turned several of her singles into really great house numbers, particularly the Shakira collaboration, "Beautiful Liar."

Personal Chart, 8/11/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (5 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... When You're Gone - Avril Lavigne
3 .... 4 .... Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
4 .... 3 .... Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control) - Mutya Buena & Groove Armada (1 wk @ #1)
5 .... 8 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring Keri Hilson & DOE
6 .... 6 .... Umbrella - Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z (3 wks @ #1)
7 ... 18 ... Tears Dry on Their Own - Amy Winehouse
8 ... 32 ... With Every Heartbeat - Robyn (with Kleerup)
9 ... 12 ... Rehab - Amy Winehouse
10 .. 5 .... Oh My God - Mark Ronson Featuring Lily Allen

Monday, August 06, 2007

Robyn Returns

Remember Robyn? The Swedish pop singer had two top 10 US hits in late 1997/early 1998, the latter of which, "Show Me Love," was also a top 10 hit in the UK. She's been recording over the last few years but lacked a major label push, ocassionally emerging when she caught someone's eye, like Billboard columnist Fred Bronson, who praised her recent single "Be Mine." That changes this week with "With Every Heartbeat," which debuted on the UK chart at #5 on downloads this week and is tipped to be #1 this coming weekend after a week of physical sales.

Check out the video:

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Personal Chart, 8/3/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie (4 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... When You're Gone - Avril Lavigne
3 .... 1 .... Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control) - Mutya Buena & Groove Armada (1 wk @ #1)
4 .... 6 .... Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
5 .... 5 .... Oh My God - Mark Ronson Featuring Lily Allen
6 .... 4 .... Umbrella - Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 8 .... 4 in the Morning - Gwen Stefani
8 ... 11 ... The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring DOE and Keri Hilson
9 .... 7 .... Fluorescent Adolescent - Arctic Monkeys
10 .. 9 ... Like This - Kelly Rowland Featuring Eve

Album Review: The Editors - An End Has a Start (3/5)

"All sparks will burn out" sang The Editors on their debut album, The Back Room (Read my review), which last year was nominated for the British Mercury Music Award. Sadly they've proven themselves correct on their second album, An End Has a Start, which, while accomplished, lacks the energy and excitement of their first album.

Indeed the sophomore slump seems alive and well, as over the course of the last year we've seen second albums from a number of hit acts (The Killers, Scissor Sisters, Bloc Party, Keane, Gwen Stefani) that, while not bad, have not lived up to the promise of their debuts. While The Back Room was notable for its intense guitar-driven numbers, "Munich," "Blood," "Lights," "All Sparks," etc., An End Has a Start strives to be moodier, more atmospheric--the sort of U2-inspired grandeur perfected by Coldplay that many British bands have turned to of late.

First single "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" embodies this perfectly. Instead of the two-part guitar we got on "Munich," now we get piano, staccatic drumming, and a high-pitched electric guitar riff. It works on this song, but it gets old after awhile, for far too many tracks on this album basically take that formula and copy it. "The Weight of the World," for example, sounds quite similar, although it thankfully side-steps the high-pitched vibratto guitar that gets quiet tedious by the time you get to "Escape the Nest" or "Spiders." "Bones" sort of falls into this camp too, although it has a nice energy too it. When I reviewed their first album, I said that I really like the lead singer because 1) he has a nice deep voice and 2) he can actually sing well, which still serves the band well, although I feel like he's tempted to be a little too pretty in some songs, particularly "Bones."

The band works best when they go for tight, energetic songs, such as "An End Has a Start," which would make a great second single, and sounds more like something from their first album--loud and full with great interplay between the bass and two guitars. The "Racing Rats" is good too, opening with prominent piano chords and racing along with strong bass and fast drums.

Slow songs are not the band's forte. "Push Your Head Towards the Air"is quiet and more acoustic than other numbers, but it's mix of brooding and hope just doesn't grab me. "Well Worn Hand," which consists of slowly plucked piano chords and slow-ly sung vo-cals, is just too dreary, dull frankly. A more laid back track that I do like is "When Anger Shows," which manages to nail the brooding, piano-backed song well that the others don't quite achieve. There's a nice part in the middle too where the bass comes to the forefront, followed by vocals, then the piano and guitar.

Credit them for their efforts to incorporate the beloved piano into their work, but too bad they lost their focus here. An End Has a Start has some good moments, but overall is a disappointment.

Best: An End Has a Start, Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors, When Anger Shows, Racing Rats