The short version:
Kid Cudi—Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager: 6/10
Katy Perry—Teenage Dream: 9/10
Morcheeba—Blood like Lemonade: 3/10
Linkin Park—A Thousand Suns: 8/10
Kanye West—My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 7/10
Conjure One—Exilarch: 7/10
Daft Punk—Tron: Legacy: 7/10
Evanescence—The Open Door: 6/10
I've been listening to music a lot recently—actually, if you judge what I've been working on based on what I'm writing about, you'd think that's all I've been doing, since my last post was also a music post not even three weeks ago and I've finished eight CDs since then. The real answer, of course, is that World of Warcraft 4.0 "The Shattering" has launched and I've been playing the Cataclysm expansion with pretty much all of my spare time. World of Warcraft gets honorable mention from me for including something ridiculous like eight hours of updated and reorchestrated music for the existing game in a patch, not including the several new hours of music for the expansion content. There are twelve minutes just for the login screen, which is a medley of perhaps some of the best music ever recorded for a game. I approve.
Anyway, after loving Kid Cudi's debut album, I picked up the recent followup Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, and ouch, what a disappointment. It sounds like a disc of B-sides from the first one and the one good single he came up with since then, Erase Me. Maybe that's what it is. Besides that single, Scott Mescudi vs. the World and Mr. Rager are the best here. Much of the rest seems unrefined or boring. The beats are overall still very solid, but the melodies need help. Overall the CD isn't awful, but it does make me a bit sad.
I feel some amount of shame for loving Katy Perry's second CD, Teenage Dream, but it's just too fun to hate it. Some of the lyrics are terrible and some are just fine, and a couple just make me grin and facepalm, like rhyming "ginger ale" with "epic fail." Having not listened to it yet I laughed when I saw that a Katy Perry CD was up for a Grammy, and now I understand completely; it's a masterpiece of cheesy, cheery pop music. It's up against Kanye West's and Eminem's latest albums, and I gotta say, out of those three at least, it's the clear winner for me. Since I typically force myself to pick three favorites I'll go with Last Friday Night, Firework, and Circle the Drain, but this would still be a pretty good CD if all three of those were gone, and there aren't too many albums you can say that for.
And then Morcheeba's Blood like Lemonade. Their last couple discs were excellent, and after being disappointed by one of their sleepy earlier works, I was really looking forward to their latest. But ugh, it's a return to the style of their earlier music! This CD is the official music of naptime. You could dare someone to not fall asleep listening to it and maybe make some money. The best on here are the title track, Easier Said than Done, and Self Made Man, but I could really do without all of them. I wasn't necessarily expecting another amazing CD like Dive Deep, but this one gets a frowny-face from me.
Linkin Park has done something interesting with A Thousand Suns. The marketing blurb for the disc is that "they weren't making an album...", and I'm sure that's all BS. But it's a departure nonetheless. I was actually disappointed at first, but after a couple listens I've come to really like it. The single Waiting for the End is a really great song—a lot lighter than their other hits and a perfect way to showcase "hey we sound a little different." I've noticed that most of my favorite tracks from Linkin Park are the ones that are heavy on the Mike Shinoda, the Japanese rapper in the group, and Waiting for the End and When They Come for Me fit the bill. I also rather like Robot Boy, which features their lead singer Chester, but at no point in the song is he screaming, which is a really nice touch. The band was even kind enough to separate all of the interludes and filler into their own tracks so they (and the hideous acoustic song The Messenger) can be skipped by those of us who like to shuffle their playlists. Not all Linkin Park fans are going to like this CD, but I do recommend giving it a couple chances before you pass it up.
Kanye West's latest is also a departure, and while there are some definite good things to come out of it, the difference is that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's low points are really low. (It's a shame too, because his previous album 808s and Heartbreak was a departure too, and it was a really good one.) The opening track Dark Fantasy is quite good and gets you on the edge of your seat for the weirdness that's to come. Things go pretty well from there and you're soon treated to Power, another great track. Then things start to get kind of mixed. There are some good parts and some bad ones, and you're starting to get kind of annoyed by the CD when suddenly you hear a lone piano note tapped repeatedly and he launches into the terribly brilliant highlight of the album: Runaway. There's a lot to like in the album, but there are definite parts to hate, and unfortunately those are inextricably weaved into the rest. The biggest WTF is probably Blame Game, which starts out pretty and relaxed and then suddenly switches into an obnoxious and sudden je ne sais quoi from about 2:30 to 3:30, and then the last two and a half minutes are a baffling cavalcade of obscenities ranted by Chris Rock. Why? Some of it comes down to personal preference; I have a personal preference to avoid songs with lyrics about choking women during sex, for example. If you're a fan of rap music you should probably listen to this CD—but be prepared: it gets weird.
A CD that probably could have stood to be a little more weird is Conjure One's Exilarch. Conjure One and Delerium share a band member, and they've put out pretty similar music for like a decade now. It would be nice to hear something a bit more different, but Exilarch is a pleasing more-of-the-same. The opening track Like Ice is gorgeous, and Zephyr and Run for Cover are both great too. The rest is good, but they tread dangerously close to generica, and I honestly couldn't tell you which album or artist several of them were from. Worth picking up if you like Delerium and Conjure One.
Daft Punk seem like the perfect band to score Tron: Legacy—the robot costumes that the band performs in even fit the aesthetic of the film (which I haven't seen yet, so no spoilers). As a soundtrack I'm sure it works fantastically though: it's moody, futuristic, and alternates between grand and understated. It all blends together nicely, which is good for a soundtrack but not usually too great for an album; little about this CD puts me in a "gotta play this now!" mood. The one track that does is Derezzed, which is pretty much exactly what the music for a futuristic video game stadium should sound like. End of Line is rather good too, and you could put the lovely track Recognizer in the background of just about any scene in Mass Effect 2 and nobody would notice the difference. Recommended for Daft Punk fans and fans of sci-fi movie scores.
Finally, I listened to Evanescence's The Open Door for a while, and it's fairly decent. It also all sounds pretty same-y, and similar to their first album Fallen, but I think that's more due to girl-metal not being one of my standard musical genres. Sweet Sacrifice, Call Me When You're Sober, and Lacrymosa are good.
I'm excited about a new Kerli album coming out soonish. The first single Army of Love is interesting.