Tag Archives: Epic Records

ALBUM REVIEW: Karmin – Pulses

They want it all.

They want it all.

It’s been two years since the Boston-based duo Karmin released an EP on Epic Records titled Hello. Preceded by a minor airplay single in “Crash Your Party”, issued as a stand-alone release in 2011, the seven song effort would go onto moderate sales and decent promotion for two additional singles: “Brokenhearted” and the title track. Though their charting presence wasn’t stellar, it gave them enough recognition (on top of their already solid following from YouTube) and they once again stepped foot into the studio later that year to finish what is now their first full-length album out on the 25th, titled Pulses.

If you’re familiar with this ongoing story, you know that this effort has been plagued by many delays, originally intended to be released in Q4 of 2012. That would’ve made sense given the chart run for “Hello”, which peaked at the time. There were at least three dates set during 2013 for it to come out, but due to the underperformance of lead single “Acapella” and staff cuts at Epic during the summer, this was again put on the back burner. Feuds ensued and things got ugly, but both the duo and label have seemingly agreed to stick it out with this current date and track listing. Alas, followup “I Want It All” is faring even worse, but luckily, I like it and some of the other tracks on here, which is a special gift for the two’s core fans.

Let’s start with what works really well on here. Besides the aforementioned “All”, which grooves to a Nu Shooz style beat, by far the best cut on Pulses is “Hate To Love You”, produced by The Elev3n. This should’ve been the “Brokenhearted” of the era. It’s straight-up fun pop at its best, switching between Nick Noonan on the verses and Amy Heidemann on the raps. You may remember that it was used in a television ad for ShoeDazzle. Why couldn’t it have been promoted then? That is anyone’s guess. It’s nothing new sonically, but it’s surely meant to be a radio hit.

Two of the other standouts on here feature the duo riding a wave of reggae rhythms just in time for the summer. Satisfying tunes include the island pop vibe of “Gasoline”, which gives the album some much-needed life after a series of so-so tracks. Further down the lineup is “Try Me On”, co-written and produced by Canadian duo The Messengers. (One of its members, Nasri Atweh, is also the lead singer of the band MAGIC!, who have an international hit in “Rude”.) It packs the flavor and showcases a better lyric than the former song.

Of course, you may be interested in the more urban side of Karmin. For that, I would refer you to the Jon Jon produced banger “Pulses”, the title track, which could be compared to the “I Told You So” of this album. Jon Jon also had a hand in that album cut from Hello. The production is hot and the energy is up, but you’re probably going to cringe at lines like, “I wanna raise pulses, la chica with the mostest/Not in the mood for the Average Josephs.” Really? Yeah, I think I’ll pass too.

I can’t fault the duo for switching up the genres and tempos pretty regularly on here, but unfortunately, much of it comes off as slightly passable b-side material at best. The pop/rock turned electro “Night Like This” sadly falls flat; even though the night sounds interesting, they sound pretty bored singing about it. Ballad “Neon Love” is overdone thematically, much the same as “Tidal Wave”, in which they just add water (metaphorically) but nothing seems to grow. 3OH!3 also enters the mix, co-writing “Puppet” – that, at least, stirs things up a little bit, but it’s not one of my favorites.

I hate to say it, I don’t want to say it… alright, I’m going to say it. This really could’ve been issued as an EP and not as a full album. I know Karmin has been pretty vocal about wanting to deliver a first album, but had Epic released this as a part of a two EP series in early 2013 with a sort of compilation album last spring, I think that ultimately would’ve created the best results for both the label and the duo. Instead, this will probably go away without much in the way of sales and no real huge single from it. It’s too bad because the material and the enthusiasm is there, but there’s obviously a real big problem in the handling of material properly at Epic. That isn’t to say the label is 100% at fault because there are some subpar songs here, but unless you’re A Great Big World or KONGOS or Prince at the moment, they won’t be throwing their coins at you.

Amy Heidemann sings it best in “Neon Love”: “Baby, sometimes it’s hard enough just getting by/This neon love is destined to die.” It’s downright true: they’re better off conserving that electric pop pulse for whatever label they end up at next.

(Stream and pre-order Karmin’s Pulses, due in stores March 25)

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ALBUM REVIEW: Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne

Time to "Rock" it.

Time to “Rock” it.

Why’d she have to go and make things so complicated? Canadian pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne is no stranger to the headlines, having just married Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, nor is she a stranger to the charts. However, at least for the past few years, single and album releases from her have felt like a non-event; something that should wake up the public only to stall out and fade away, now locked up somewhere in the top 40 graveyard. Here comes a delayed fifth full-length effort from her, self-titled, which accurately maintains her teen queen image (strengths and the weaknesses) but also shows some needed growth and variety in musical tastes. This one will fly under the radar, but it could be the best music she’s put out in years.

One of the first highlights is “17”, a fun and bouncy pop number reminiscing about a time when “we were livin’ so wild and free” and “it was you and me/We were living our dream/And we were 17”. The track was co-written with Martin Johnson and Jacob Kasher, who were also involved on first single “Here’s To Never Growing Up”, but this is the stronger of the two songs. It certainly holds more substance; it’s cute without being juvenile and would have performed better at radio as the leadoff single if given the chance. That was a major mistake on Epic’s part, and unfortunately, both the label and Lavigne have paid a bit for it.

Also ranking high on my list is track six, “Give You What You Like”, co-written with Kroeger and David Hodges. The darker, more understated song about a girl questioning the notion of love and her commitment to it plays nicely off an arrangement of guitar, hand claps and tambourine, as Lavigne tempts her counterpart: “I’ve got a brand new cure for lonely/And if you give me what I want, then I’ll give you what you like.” This one is better left as album material, but it wouldn’t sound out-of-place on 2004’s Under My Skin, which may be my favorite album from her. The tone of it is really likable and her character is strong.

Elsewhere, “Bad Girl”, featuring a guest appearance from Marilyn Manson, radiates shades of Blondie and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. By far the hardest sounding track on the album, it’s the flavor that counts. “Hello Heartache” seems to be a fan favorite, which I also enjoy, a mid-tempo record in which Lavigne takes a few vocal risks and the more experimental nature of it makes it a standout. Finally, there’s “Falling Fast”, which is fairly textbook, a vulnerable acoustic-sounding ballad that builds gently as she sings, “Let’s take a chance/Take it while we can/I know you feel it too/I’m falling fast.” Straight out of the late 90’s, it can easily be compared to similar tracks in Alanis Morissette or Sarah McLachlan’s catalogues.

Unfortunately, this album also suffers some major missteps along the way. Cue “Hello Kitty”, track eight, which indeed proves that curiosity killed the cat. The “Gangnam Style” turned trashy dubstep number is loaded up “like a fat kid on a pack of Smarties” and I have no words, except perhaps that a Japanese audience will probably eat this up. After all, she has a significant fan base in that part of the world. The unnecessary cursing is also an issue on this one, just because it’s sounds so awkward. “Bitchin’ Summer”, I’m looking at you. Lastly, there’s the filler tracks – now granted, this was supposed to be released at the end of summer and maybe I would’ve given songs like “Sippin’ On Sunshine” a pass then, but that and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” bring the lineup down as a whole. I’m surprised there weren’t other considerations when it came to compiling a track listing.

Despite the lackluster tracks, I’m pleasantly surprised with how Avril Lavigne turned out. There’s a charm on this album, at least more so than on 2007’s The Best Damn Thing or 2011’s Goodbye Lullaby. However, it’s way too late to repair the damage of those two eras when it comes to the numbers. Lavigne’s audience has grown up, and though she has her moments of maturity, it can be lost considering its first two singles were childish and ran their course without making a significant impact. Couple that with the fact that Epic’s radio department has shrunk significantly this year and a general frustration of the record group from even its own acts like Cher Lloyd and Karmin and this will likely be an effort that fades from the charts pretty quickly. Nevertheless, it is one of the singer’s stronger albums to date, so I do wish her the best. Perhaps current single “Let Me Go” will act a rallying cry from the singer; after all the push backs and singles indecision, she deserves a better team behind her.

Listen to Avril Lavigne on BCharts. / Pre-order Avril Lavigne on iTunes.

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SINGLE REVIEW: Karmin – “Acapella” (+ Lyrics)

Harmonizing for another hit.

Harmonizing for another hit.

Boston’s sultans of swag pop, the male-female duo Karmin, brought an edge to the music world through their creative YouTube covers of rap songs (and others) and eventual original music, like 2011’s “Crash Your Party” and 2012’s “Brokenhearted” and “Hello”. Each received mainstream radio airplay, with “Brokenhearted” becoming the breakout hit of the bunch, going as high as #16 on the Hot 100. Their Hello EP also charted in the top 20 on the album chart. Over the holidays, the twosome of Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan recorded a version of “Sleigh Ride”, which was offered as a free download through a sponsorship through the store Coach, but that was the last of any new music we heard from them. Now, the duo signed to Epic Records have produced an epic single titled “Acapella”, which has now been serviced to radio.

“Acapella” is largely different from the single material on Hello in that it relies heavily on the vocal and a lot of bass and drum loops, whereas some of their former stuff freely used guitar and synthesizer. The barely there arrangement takes a little getting used to, but you’ll be more focused on the lyrics than anything else. Like their hit “Hello”, the song features Heidemann rapping in the verses and singing the chorus/middle eight, with Noonan sharing a few lines in the second verse. Hey, at least it’s not reduced to a “Cheerio!” this time around, but I would like to see him more prominently featured on the rest of the album. (By the way, the only parts of this song that are actually acapella are the introduction (vocal and beatboxing), the ending line of the chorus (vocal only) and the middle eight (vocal only).)

Heidemann, in her Nicki Minaj-lite style, takes to the mic and wraps her way around name-checking two childhood fairytales, a toothpaste brand, a recent Justin Timberlake single and a popular Italian restaurant chain, among other references that fall seamlessly into place. It’s a cute song and a relatable to a teen audience at the same time, especially those who feel compelled to break off their relationship. Plus, they sound like they’re having fun. It’s a little bit silly, but it’s enjoyable, especially when Heidemann goes into her “falsett-uh“. Four out of five rooster impressionists would agree she does her call well. Possibly the only aspect of the song that gets a little bit annoying is the slowed-down vocal effect throughout the song, which is trying too hard to recreate Yello‘s “Oh Yeah”. I mean, this isn’t Nick Noonan’s Day Off, hello! Or, maybe it is. This song moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to listen to individual component, you could miss it.

With many acts taking a retro direction when it comes to single releases, this should at least stand out for skewing way more in the modern realm. It’s equal parts commercial and risky given the nature of it, but Karmin isn’t exactly known for playing it safe. As for now, I’m predicting a top 20 peak at CHR radio for it, with a quick fall after it peaks later this summer. It’s polarizing enough, and hopefully, there will even better second single to come, but I’m satisfied with the results here. I’m always good with a hometown act succeeding, so please guys, don’t leave us brokencharted tonight (or over the next few nights, weeks, months… you know what I mean.)

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

Listen to the premiere of Karmin‘s “Acapella”.

“ACAPELLA”

[Chorus]
Used to be your baby, used to be your lady
Thought you were the perfect lover
All the harmony went falling out of key, so
Now you gotta find another
Now you’re talking crazy saying that you made me
Like I was your Cinderella
You and me are through, though, watch me hit it solo
I’mma do it acapella (x2)

[Verse 1]
Once upon a time, I met the perfect guy
He had that Colgate smile, he had that suit and tie
Mama always said get a rich boyfriend
You don’t gotta love ’em, girl, you can pretend
You bet, I totes believed her, yeah, every word she said
Thought he was gluten-free, but all that I got was bread
Mama always said nice guys finish last
Beat ’em at his own game, honey, take the cash

[Pre-Chorus]
Ooh, and what a lucky girl you will be
But no, he didn’t do jack for me
I want a bean with a beanstalk
And if the magic ain’t right, time to walk

[Chorus]
Used to be your baby, used to be your lady
Thought you were the perfect lover
All the harmony went falling out of key, so
Now you gotta find another
Now you’re talking crazy saying that you made me
Like I was your Cinderella
You and me are through, though, watch me hit it solo
I’mma do it acapella, yeah

Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
I’mma do it acapella, yeah

[Verse 2]
Out on our first date, he took me gourmet
We hit that Olive Garden, my Little Italy
Daddy always said let the gentleman pay
Never ever go Dutch at the buffet
I saw his bad intention, he didn’t wanna talk
He put the saucy on it (Oops!) time to check my watch
Daddy always said money can’t buy class
You don’t wanna get stuck taking out trash

[Pre-Chorus – variation]
Ooh, yeah I guess it wasn’t meant to be
Because he didn’t do jack for me
I want a bean with a beanstalk
And if the magic ain’t right, time to walk

[Chorus]
Used to be your baby, used to be your lady
Thought you were the perfect lover
All the harmony went falling out of key, so
Now you gotta find another
Now you’re talking crazy saying that you made me
Like I was your Cinderella
You and me are through, though, watch me hit it solo
I’mma do it acapella, yeah

[Middle 8]
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
I’mma do it acapella
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Watch me do it in falsett-uh
Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Never mind, bring the beat back

[Chorus]
Used to be a baby, used to be a lady
Thought you were the perfect lover
All the harmony went falling out of key, so
Now you gotta find another
Now you’re talking crazy saying that you made me
Like I was your Cinderella
You and me are through, though, watch me hit it solo
I’mma do it acapella, yeah

Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
I’mma do it acapella, yeah

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SINGLE PREMIERE: Avril Lavigne – “Here’s To Never Growing Up” (+ Lyrics)

"Up" up and away.

She’s “never” ever ever going to do it.

From the days of Let Go with hit singles like “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi” to her newest release “Here’s To Never Growing Up”, Avril Lavigne has still got the pop punk princess image down. Her last album, Goodbye Lullaby, came and went quickly without the success of her first few eras, but she’s hoping to impress with this one of hers. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be the graduation anthem of this year. Lavigne’s first single from her forthcoming album due this summer was written and produced by David Hodges, a former member of Evanescence and Martin Johnson, the lead singer for the pop band Boys Like Girls. It’s now at radio and on iTunes, where you can find a link below to download. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD “Here’s To Never Growing Up” on iTunes. / LISTEN to “Here’s To Never Growing Up”.

“HERE’S TO NEVER GROWING UP”
(Hodges/Johnson)

[Chorus – Half]
Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs
With the boom box blaring as we’re falling in love
Got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk
Singing “here’s to never growing up”

[Verse 1]
Call up all our friends
Go hard this weekend
For no damn reason
I don’t think we’ll ever change
Meet you at the spot
Half past 10’clock
We don’t ever stop
And we’re never gonna change

[Bridge]
Say
Won’t you stay forever
Stay
If you stay forever
Hey
We can stay forever young

[Chorus]
Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs
With the boom box blaring as we’re falling in love
Got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
We’ll be running down the street yelling “kiss my (hey!)”
I’m like yeah, whatever, we’re still living like that
When the sun goes down, we’ll be raising our cups
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)

[Verse 2]
We live like rockstars
Dance on every bar
This is who we are
I don’t think we’ll ever change
They say just grow up
But they don’t know us
We don’t give a f–k
And we’re never gonna change

[Bridge]
Say
Won’t you stay forever
Stay
If you stay forever
Hey
We can stay forever young

[Chorus]
Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs
With the boom box blaring as we’re falling in love
Got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
We’ll be running down the street yelling “kiss my (hey!)”
I’m like yeah, whatever, we’re still living like that
When the sun goes down, we’ll be raising our cups
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)

[Bridge]
Say
Won’t you stay forever
Stay
If you stay forever
Hey
We can stay forever young

[Chorus]
Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs
With the boom box blaring as we’re falling in love
Got a bottle of whatever, but it’s getting us drunk
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
We’ll be running down the street yelling “kiss my (hey!)”
I’m like yeah, whatever, we’re still living like that
When the sun goes down, we’ll be raising our cups
Singing “here’s to never growing up”
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up) (Raise your glass and say!)
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up) (And we’re never growing up)
Oh-oh (Here’s to never growing up)

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