I came across Amy's song "Love Is Trippy" through the media guide on Windows Media Player on my computer and just clicked on her randomly among the unfamiliar faces of new talent. The song came on and it was a different sound than I'm used to hearing, not another pop girl a la Britney Spears. Her music has a big band old music style and her voice is reminiscent of Fiona Apple in its depth and smoky delivery. You can read about her and hear "Love Is Trippy" and other songs on her music page HERE. Her bio is included on the "About" page and she gives a fairly extensive history of her background and how her life has culminated to this point where she's on the verge of worldwide recognition. Her appearance on "Gilmore Girls" certainly didn't hurt, along with some cover songs she's done which are avaialable on YouTube.com.
Linkin Park "Minutes To Midnight"
This album came on the heels of massive success for the band after the 2003 release of Meteora which has sold 11 million albums worldwide. "Minutes" is a huge departure for the group, with only 3 or 4 rock songs and the rest souding like the makings of a concept album. Being that it was so different from Meteora this album took a while for me to warm up to, aside from the opening single "What I've Done" and the track opener "Given Up". One song that stood out early on is "Hands Held High" which deals with the state of the world including war and gas prices. The drum roll opening gives the song a sense of importance and when you hear vocalist Mike Shinoda start his pseudo rap about the state of affairs you know this song has a purpose and it has become my favorite on the album. This album came out more than a year ago but being that I've just now started paying its due respect, it feels new to me.
Korn "MTV Unplugged"
When a band as loud and aggressive as KoRn strips down their songs to play them acoustically on Unplugged, you know something special is going to take place. Opening the show with a flamenco-style run of their first hit "Blind", KoRn let us all know that this was going to be unlike anything we've ever heard and it continued throughout the show. Amy Lee of Evanesence joined the band for a piano-driven take on "Freak On A Leash", and The Cure came out for a mashup of Korn's "Make Me Bad" and their own "In Between Days". KoRn stuck to their hits mostly but added a cover of Radiohead's "Creep", which Jonathan dedicated to "anyone who's ever been picked on or made to feel inadequate" and shared that the song gave him a lot of strength during his school days. There is an obvious irony involved in this particular performance of Unplugged in which the power of Jonathon's lyrics almost made you forget the songs were being played acoustically. Examples of this are evident on "Love Song" and "Throw Me Away", as well as "Coming Undone". This band continues to surprise me with the raw power of their music and delivery and this performance is in my top 3 favorites done "Unplugged" along with Nirvana and Alice In Chains. **Honorable mention goes to Pearl Jam for giving the Unplugged performance that sparked my eternal devotion to their music.**
Madonna "Hard Candy"
The release of Ray Of Light in 1998 marked a reinvention for Madonna and the days of blond ambition are long gone. That theme continues with Hard Candy, released almost four months before her 50th birthday. For this new release, Madonna has worked with a number of hit producers including Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. and Kanye West, along with Timbaland. She is joined by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake on the hit single "4 Minutes" which was produced by Timbaland. The album overall is solid and shows how this incredible performer can continue to reinvent her sound nearly 30 years into her career. While this is not my favorite album of hers, I remain in awe of her ability to put out good music when most would say she should be retired based solely on age.
Ice Cube "Raw Footage"
Gangsta rapper turned megastar Ice Cube has released his 8th studio album titled Raw Footage. This album is basically a follow-up to his 2006 release Laugh Now Cry Later which marked a return to his roots after a six year hiatus from making music when he focused on film and television projects. The album's first single "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It" is signature Ice Cube as he takes a stab at the industry being blamed for violence. My favorite track on the album is "Jack In The Box", with the main line "my head is so big they call me jack in the box", just a fun song to listen to. Other great tracks include "Stand Tall" with its old school vibe and laid back tempo, and "Get Used To It" featuring WC and The Game which is one of the few tracks with guest performances. Ice Cube seems to be getting more strategic about using guests on his album, as his last two albums have had only 2 or 3 tracks with support on them. Even if you completely ignore that Cube helped pioneer the gangsta rap movement and rate him by music only, you cannot deny that Ice Cube is one of the most prolific and aggressive icons in the business. His latest surge of music shows how versatile he can be as he traded music for film and returned to the mic sounding like he never left.
Wyclef's album The Carnival was a huge hit and I think showed the world what he is capable of. He makes music to bring people together and uses a very different approach to making an album than most rappers do. The most impressive thing about this sequel to The Carnival is the guest appearances. Nearly every song has an amazing guest on it and Wyclef made every song a true collaboration as each track with a guest feels like a perfect blend of the artists' styles working together. Wyclef didn't just stick with hip hop persona either; Norah Jones, Paul Simon and Shakira put their mark on my favorite tracks on the album. This album is a perfect party CD to put on, with the huge variety of sounds and styles. System of a Down singer Serj Tankian makes an appearance in the album opener, which shows just how diverse Wyclef can be. I'm extremely impressed with this album from start to finish.
I'd love to hear what all of you are listening to right now, whether it's an old favorite you've put back into rotation or a new artist or album.