Album Review – The Valley – Betty Who

The Valley is the second album from Australian pop songstress Betty Who (Jessica Anne Newham).  Once again, her mostly upbeat synth-pop straddles the pop and dance charts (the first single off this album hit #1 on the US Dance charts in 2016).

On her second album, Betty Who has taken a step more into the pop sound predominant in the 2010s, as compared to the heavily 80s inflected pop sound of her first album.

Echoing the favorite subject of pop artists ever, The Valley centers on love, heartbreak, and getting on without them. It’s nice that this is the rare album that doesn’t have a song that is maudlin and dragging for this subject. She sticks to up-tempo beats for the most part, and the few slower songs aren’t downers.

While the album isn’t perfect (Warren G feels totally out of place on Free to Fly, and Some Kinda Wonderful just doesn’t appeal), The Valley is a solid album that is well worth your time.

Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I have a playlist for: You Can Cry Tomorrow, Human Touch, Wanna Be, Beautiful (Feat. Superfruit), I Will Love You Always Forever

Songs I will Thumbs Down: Some Kinda Wonderful

 

 

 

Album Review – All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend – AURORA

All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend is the first full album from 19 year-old Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes. The first thing I noticed is that she has a pleasant, sometimes child-like voice with a range and sound that reminds me a lot of Kate Bush, except that she has a clarity of sound that I never really got from Kate Bush.

The first thing I noticed is that she has a pleasant, sometimes child-like voice with a range and sound that reminds me a lot of Kate Bush, except that she has a clarity of sound that I never really got from Kate Bush.

I listened to the Deluxe version of the album, which clocks in with a hefty 17 tracks. And I enjoyed it the whole time. She really does have a nice voice and a sure sense of song. From her sweet and touching cover of Half The World Away to the tom tom driven Conquerer, to even the mostly too simple Through The Eyes of a Child, Aurora really showcases her voice and range.

While this album is clearly a pop album, it dabbles all over the place – there are folk strains here, electronica there; nothing jars but there is plenty of varied approaches throughout the album.

Recommendation: Buy It

Songs I have a Playlist for: Runaway, Conqueror, Winter Bird, Half The World 

Clunkers  I will Thumbs Down: I got tired of Through The Eyes of a Child really fast.

Song Spotlight: Here With Me – Susie Suh with Robot Koch

I really need to make friends with some music directors for televisions shows. They find the most amazing things sometimes. Take Here With Me by Susie Suh, with Robot Koch…I heard this for the first time on The Blacklist. It was an interesting song for that spot in the show, and it’s even better just as a song to listen to.

 

Album Review: My Wild West – Lissie

My Wild West opens with a kind of maudlin reminiscence of California in Hollywood. I feel like this entire album is a forlorn breakup album with LA or California…I’m not exactly sure which.

Not that it means My Wild West is a bad album. It’s just a little self-absorbed at times. Lissie is a good song writer, with a taste for pretty straightforward pop, and occasionally something more folk-inflected. He voice is always a little husky, a little gravely. It’s just that sometimes, she a little too slick for her own good.

In any event, the album starts out with a breakup song for  some part of her life, and ends up with a love song for some new part of her life, in Ojai, which is clearly a about her retreat and rejuvenation in the moderately remote Ojai, California. In between, she has some chargier stuff (My Wild West, Hero, Daughters) and some stuff that’s a little more reflective and introspective (Stay, Go For a Walk).

Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I Have a Playlist For: Don’t You Give Up On Me, Together or Apart, Hollywood

Clunkers I Will Thumbs Down: Hero

Album Review – All I Need – Foxes

All I Need is a quintesessital 2010’s pop album. From big, dance-friendly pop singles like Body Talk to open-hearted ballads like If You Leave Me Now to big throated numbers like Wicked LoveAll I Need delivers radio-friendly modern pop that’s enjoyable and easy to listen to.

By the same token, that is its greatest fault, as well. While Louisa Rose Allen has crafted an album that is lyrically more personal than her first out, it is musically less varied. It’s easy to lose All I Need to the background when you want to be more invested in what you’re listening to.

Recommendation: Stream It

Songs I have a Playlist for: Better LoveWicked LoveLose My Cool

Clunkers I will Thumbs Down: Devil Side

Song Spotlight: Bright Lights and Cityscapes by Sara Barielles

 

If you like pop music and you don’t now Sara Bareilles yet, where have you been? over 5 albums (one self-released) and an EP, she has managed to generate some of the most consistently good song writing in the last decade.  Is she the best? I would say probably not. But she’s always good, her songs are alway listenable, and her concerts are some of the most fun you can have in any state of dress in the US.

Bright Lights and Cityscapes is probably my favorite of all her songs.