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James Blunt: Some Kind of Trouble
Through begging words, teary pleas and acoustic pop music, British singer/songwriter James Blunt’s claim to fame came in 2005 with his debut album Back to Bedlam, which featured the unforgettable ‘You’re Beautiful’ and ‘Goodbye My Lover’. Blunt returns now with a third album that will definitely appeal to fans of his earlier hits.
Though his high-pitched vocals aren’t a favourite for some, Blunt’s melancholic but poignant and relatable lyrics help make his songs memorable. His newest record Some Kind of Trouble doesn’t stray much from that aim, while adding spice to some songs with a happier twist.
Some Kind of Trouble is a strong attempt by Blunt to get out of the miserable zone of singing about heartbreaks and loneliness. To some extent he succeeds in doing so on the previously-released cheerful single 'Stay the Night', which has some skip-along, perky beats, and the acoustic ballad 'These Are The Words', which highlights a mild 80s feel. The 80s feel continues with a sudden turn to electric tunes on ‘Superstar', where Blunt’s trademark repetitive high notes might leave some listeners complaining.
Just as he almost gets away with a distress-free album, he sets the album’s general mood back down with the usual deep, overly self-pitying lyrics on the tracks ‘No Tears’ and ‘Heart of Gold’.
While James Blunt’s talent is vastly improving, we can’t help but wonder if the hit ‘You’re Beautiful’ was just beginner’s luck. While Some Kind of Trouble is a nice record to listen to and even has a couple of songs that are likely to be replayed over and over, it lacks a standout hit that would make it another unforgettable album.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
After his light-reggae hit ‘I’m Yours’, Jason Mraz has released his fourth album Love Is a Four Letter Word to further establish his image as a fun, peace-loving, the-world-is-a-wonderful-place kind of artist. In an album where the larger share of words revolve around love, he manages to do just that, failing to avoid, however, that seemingly unavoidable curse of cheesy lyrics.
What some might see traditional and romantic, others might easily see as outdated and heavily repetitive. ‘I Won’t Give Up’, with its quiet guitar riffs and pertinent backing vocals, gives considerable space for Mraz’s own vocals to show but let’s be hones; “When I look into your eyes, it’s like watching the night sky” isn’t exactly innovative.
Though most of the album’s instrumentalism is cleverly layered, ‘The Freedom Song’ is much simpler in sound. Distinct horn accents, a foot-tapping beat and a bubbly mood; the general mellow tones of the song, along with its reassuring lyrics, make this a feel-good track all over.
‘Be Honest’ is another subtle track that can take the listener back in time in an instant. Featuring singer-songwriter Inara George in the chorus, the song has a lounge music air surrounding it, all with a peculiar addition of a xylophone and an acoustic guitar.
The majority of the songs on Love is a Four Letter Word are able to stand on their own, yet as an album, it has a strange lack of obvious hits. Even the single ‘I Won’t Give Up’ doesn’t hit home as expected of a chart entry. However, fans who were introduced to Mraz’s music through ‘I’m Yours’ will probably fall in love with its twin ‘Living in the Moment’ complete with trademark casual guitar strumming, catchy whistling and a similarly positive vibe.
When it comes down to
it, Jason Mraz’s latest album will hardly change the music scene. But it can
be considered a step forward for listeners who thought his former
mono-emotional style too much to listen to throug a dozen or so songs per
album. At some points, it even comes dangerously close to a country sound, as can
be seen in‘Frank D. Fixer’.
Overall, Love Is a Four Letter Word is a safe ride that rarely goes through ups or downs; it talks about love in a very generic sense and doesn’t at any point hit a peak. The upbeat, high-pitched guitar-padded tunes are less in this album than the previous ones which hopefully hints at Mraz’s future evolution as an artist.