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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

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New Kids On The Block – 10 (Album Review)

New Kids On The Block was never on my radar during their peak years, I was too cool for a boyband. Funny thing is Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and Nirvana was just that; a sausage fest. They just we’re cutesy and just like many people ridicule Nickelback today, New Kids On The Block received as much ridicule as Nickelback and Justin Bieber. Okay, no, Bieber gets way more ridicule than the kids ever did. Truth-be-told, besides Baby, I’ve never taken the time to listen to a Justin Bieber album, so I’m not going to pile on because I may, end up, liking something that he’s released – Love Yourself, for instance, isn’t bad. A great collaboration with Ed Sheeran!

Long-time readers would no doubt be aware of my erratic music tastes. After all, I just finished writing my review for Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and went straight for this album. No, I’m not insane, I just love music and good music is good music. Actually, my eclectic music tastes have been a source of ridicule by friends, family, and peers for years. So many people don’t understand how one can appreciate such a broad range of music. For me, there is no other way and it makes perfect sense. Most important of all, it brings me true happiness. So, laugh if you will, cause when I put 10 on, I turn the volume up and I’m transported to my happy place. The place where no one can touch me. Where I’m alone. Me and the boyband that I once rolled my eyes at but now acknowledge just how talented these musicians are.  

I enjoy the album so much that I purchased the CD (unfortunately 10 has never been released on vinyl), but the moment my daughter saw it, she asked if she could have it as she loves We Own Tonight and Remix (I Like The). Well, what could I say? I rolled my eyes but in hoping that my children will love music to the level that I do, I passed my brand-new unplayed CD onto her. I still haven’t bought a replacement. I’m waiting for her to tire of it and give it back to me, but I’m starting to think that will never happen. Nevertheless, while I enjoy listening to music alone (okay, so I like to sing and dance without anyone seeing me), sharing music with those you care about is one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone, and it is one of the reasons why I love sharing my passion with all of you.  

In the absence of the CD, I turn to TIDAL Hi-Fi’s CD-quality stream that is indistinguishable from the CD counterpart. I still move uncontrollably to the beat and sing-along where appropriate. Sure, my daughter would let me borrow her copy of the CD, but maybe instead of me reviewing that copy, perhaps she will one day add her own review to Subjective Sounds, of the CD, even if it is only via the comments section. Regardless, the TIDAL Hi-Fi stream is magical as 10 has been recorded and mastered beautifully. It is dynamic and not at all jarring on the senses thereby ensuring that I could listen to the album on repeat for hours. Similarly, the lossy Apple Music stream is beautiful as the mastering is the same, although, as is to be expected, it is a little more concealed by comparison to the CD-quality stream. That said, unless you compare them side-by-side, as I have, you’ll likely be more than satisfied with either stream. 

We Own Tonight is the perfect song to open the album with. The shared vocals and harmonies are lovely as is the soundstage that has been created. It is one of those songs that gives me goose bumps and it’s incredibly addictive, resulting in the song being played on repeat and sung along to more times than I can remember. Music should impact you on an emotional level and We Own Tonight certainly does that.   

Remix (I Like The) picks up the beat and all I want to do is dance. Yes, it would be embarrassing to witness so I’m glad I’m a writer and not a YouTuber. When I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever stood or sat still when this song is playing. Even as I’m typing this review, my legs are moving to the beat. Thankfully, my hands know their way around the keyboard and can type while the rest of my body is moving to the rhythm. 

Take My Breath Away is initially less energetic, but the ballad-pop-styled tune is absolutely perfect for the New Kids On The Block style. Take My Breath Away is a killer song and if I have one criticism it would be that I would like to have the backbeat more pronounced in the soundstage as it sounds a little hidden when I feel it should be at the forefront of the song.

Wasted On You is sensational. I love the beat. The atmosphere. The vocal performance. That mid-song sonic shift is incredible. Wasted On You is a perfect pop song!

Fighting Gravity is a little predictable and campy, but if we class it as a B-side, then it is perfectly acceptable and suited to the album and the New Kids On The Block legacy. 

Miss You More has a sonic introduction and backing that I adore. I’d love to hear just the instrumental of it, but I absolutely love the vocal delivery on this song. It’s sensational and one of the best songs on the album.

The Whisper has an addictive beat that will get you toe-tapping, but it’s a largely forgettable B-Side. 

Jealous (Blue) has a fantastic vocal presentation and unlike The Whisper, my entire body moves with this song. I adore the depth and width of the soundstage on Jealous (Blue). Exceptional!

Crash reminds me of the entire A Night At The Roxbury soundtrack. Good soundtrack! Crash does feel a little out-of-place with the other songs on the album, but it’s done so well that the campiness of the song is absent and it will encourage you to get up and move to the dancefloor. Seriously, if you’re sitting still while Crash is playing, you’re listening wrong.

Back To Life is a fantastic vocal-led song that while fundamentally different from Crash, flows perfectly. While it isn’t one you can sing along to and you’ll likely not have the inclination to toe-tap, or head-bop, Back To Life is thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable. 

Now Or Never is campy, but it’s a good song. Yes, I can roll my eyes and be embarrassed when this song comes on the speakers and everyone looks at me, but that subjective response doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

Survive You / Let’s Go Out With A Bang is a sensational way to close the album. Survive you is stunning and the CD-hidden track, Let’s Go Out With A Bang, is off-the-charts! Of course, the silence between the songs is infuriating and as I’ve mentioned before, I’d love the record label or artist to re-track the hidden songs so that when you stream the album, you can listen to just that one song if you wish. Regardless, Let’s Go Out With A Bang is the perfect song to conclude the CD with and it encourages me to listen to the album again and explore more of the New Kids On The Block back catalogue. Of course, if you’re streaming via Apple Music, you’ll find there’s an iTunes exclusive track to enjoy.

Block Party has attitude and follows Let’s Go Out With A Bang perfectly. Sure, I feel the aforementioned track would be better suited to close the album with, but I’m far from disappointed with the inclusion of Block Party on the iTunes/Apple Music edition of 10.

Overall, 10 is an exceptional album that has to be heard to be believed. Yes, it is modern day pop-styled and if you’re not into that kind of music, you’ll likely not enjoy this album. 10 simply isn’t overproduced, unlike many modern pop albums. It also isn’t compressed to hell and back as the soundstage is well developed and each sonic element is beautifully expressed without the crushing sound that is often associated with this style of music. Sure, there is a lot of electronic sampling, but it is handled respectfully, reminding me of the Bee Gees disco era. It has been five years since 10 was released and while an EP, Thankful, was released in 2017, I want a true follow up to 10 as I feel the New Kids On The Block are just getting started.

10 is available on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 10 is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music.

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

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(Was) Not Was – (The Woodwork) Squeaks [Compilation Review]

Every now and then I'll browse the library of albums that I’ve saved to my TIDAL Hi-Fi collection. Amongst the thousands saved, I'll inevitably come across a few that make me wonder just how they got there. (The Woodwork) Squeaks by (Was) Not Was certainly falls into that category and upon the first listen, I'm still unsure as to why I saved it. However, upon subsequent listens, the compilation has grown on me, so much so that it leaves me feeling compelled to listen to the compilation again and again.

From my perspective, it is interesting that I saved a collection of remixes and B-sides, as (The Woodwork) Squeaks was the first (Was) Not Was album I ever listened to. Generally, I prefer the core studio releases as a starting point. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly enjoying this compilation and I invite you to put on your boogie shoes for this review as I have a feeling you're going to need them.

Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) has a compelling boogie groove that almost instantly gets you into the music, if only the first few seconds were more compelling. You'll notice throughout this review that I won't contrast a remix with the original song. This is done purposely as I’ve not heard the original recordings. In some ways, that can be a good thing as my subjective opinion isn't clouded. Regardless, Tell Me That I'm Dreaming (Traditional 12" Remix) is a great song to commence this compilation with.

Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version) is a great, albeit it lengthy, funk-based song. Remixes do have the tendency to drag on but at no time do I feel this remix needs to be shortened. In fact, it's so good that I could listen to it on repeat for hours at a time.

Wheel Me Out (Classic 12" Version) has a sonically rough introduction that doesn't flow on well from Out Come The Freaks (Predominantly Funk Version). That said, there are some elements in this song that I enjoy, but I have to acknowledge, for the most part, that I find this track to be tedious.

(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks (Extended Version) is a great song with a sensational tempo. I love it!

Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version) has a glorious horn section that is so pure it sounds as though you were in the studio while the song was being recorded. Hello Operator (Classic 12" Version), besides starting out slow, is a hell of a good song and I adore that lyrical delivery.

Dance Or Die (From Sweet Pea Atkinson Album) is a killer song. You won't be able to stay still while this track is playing, so you have my permission to take a break from reading this review. Get up and boogie, I’m sure you'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Tell Me That I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) / Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) is a great track that reminds me of Grace Jones and her style on the Nightclubbing album. That said, the transition between Tell Me I’m Dreaming (Souped Up Version) and Out Come The Freaks (Dub Version) isn't entirely seamless and the songs could very well have remained separate. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy this track.

Out Come The Freaks (Classic 12" Version) is a great addition to this compilation, but it arguably isn't the greatest version of Out Come The Freaks.

(Stuck Inside Of Detroit With) Out Come The Freaks (Again) has an incredible rhythm that you can really connect with.

As someone with two left feet, White People Can't Dance is certainly the song for me. Although, when no-one is watching, I have "the moves". I love this song and it compels me to listen to the album again and explore the entire (Was) Not Was catalogue.

Sonically, the stream from TIDAL Hi-Fi is beautiful, with every musical element positioned perfectly. It’s really all anyone would need. While (The Woodwork) Squeaks hasn’t been re-issued on any physical media, recently, I feel content with this album being part of my digital streaming collection as it is, subjectively, not quite to the standard where I feel willing to outlay additional cash to pick up a copy. That isn’t a negative reflection on the compilation, just an acknowledgement that I don’t have an endless supply of cash and one has to carefully choose albums, especially considering the often inflated prices of re-issued vinyl. This is, yet, another benefit of music streaming as it allows for exploration and enjoyment without commitment.

(The Woodwork) Squeaks can be purchased on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, (The Woodwork) Squeaks is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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MIA - AlM (Deluxe) [Album Review]

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MIA - AlM (Deluxe) [Album Review]

I'm always on the prowl for new music and while I find a plethora of albums that are worthy of reviewing, time is finite and I prefer to discuss those that reach me on a deeper level. For my thoughts on the albums that didn’t quite qualify for a long-form review, check out the Subjective Sounds Micro Reviews on Instagram.

AIM is the fifth studio release from MIA (the stage name for Mathangi Arulpragasam) and to be completely frank, I had never heard of her before listening to this album. I dare say without the ability to stream music, I would have remained naïve of her musical prowess.

The album cover is largely nondescript and prior to listening to the album, I didn't even know it was a Hip-Hop record. Personally, I like not knowing when I'm in discovery mode as I prefer the music to speak for itself. Yes, Hip-Hop is often reliant on sampling other great tracks, but that is part of the appeal of the genre. How the music is sampled and how is it integrated and developed into a song and album experience. It is a layering technique that I find fascinating and musically pleasing.

The introduction to Borders is superb as the song slowly builds. The vocal delivery and distortion levels are perfect, as is the oriental feel that traverses the song and much of the album. It is a sound signature that is unique and thoroughly addictive. You will want to turn up the volume and move your body to the beat. It is this subconscious response to the music that draws me in and captivates my soul.

Go Off continues the oriental sound signature with an interesting vocal layering technique that creates the core of the song. While the lyrical aspects of this song are mostly non-English, like good Opera, a beautiful vocal delivery is sometimes all that is needed.

Bird Song (Blaqstarr Remix) is exceptional! The sampling of llaiyaraaja's “Oru Kili Uruguthu” is done with respect and is simply gorgeous.

Jump In is a vocal interlude that isn't the greatest. Personally, I would have left it off the album as it doesn't add substantially to the musicality of the album.

Freedun (featuring Zayn) is a solid track but I feel it is a B-side, despite being issued as a single.

Foreign Friend (featuring Dexter Daps) is an incredible mellow song. I love it! Dexter Daps certainly adds value and the song wouldn't be the same without the inclusion of his smooth, yet gritty, vocal presentation.

Finally isn't a bad song but it is let down by too much vocal and bass distortion.

A.M.P (All My People) re-introduces the oriental sounds, but I don't like the song as I feel it is overproduced.

Ali r u ok? is sonically pleasing, although I find the soundstage to be a little too compressed.

Visa isn't the strongest song on the album. Although, I thoroughly enjoy it as it reminds me of the musicality Grace Jones is known for.

Fly Pirate is sonically disturbing. Seriously, listen on headphones and you have moments where the music doesn't only create a widening soundstage, but you feel as though the music is moving through your skull. It is an interesting technique and I like it.

Survivor is a lovely song, but there is a little too much distortion and reliance on Autotune.

Bird Song (Diplo Remix) doesn't compare to the brilliance heard on the Blaqstarr Remix.

The New International Sound Pt. 2 (featuring GENER8I0N) is sonically incredible! This song has a massive soundstage and while it still overuses Autotune, it suits the song perfectly.

Swords has some incredible musical elements, but I am not sure it works as a song. Then again, the more I listen, the more I feel it works. It is one of those songs that will likely grow on you.

Talk is brilliant. I love it!

Platforms is musically beautiful and the perfect song to end the album with as it makes me want to listen again or continue to explore MIA's catalogue.

While AIM may not appeal to everyone, I find that I am drawn to the album as it is musically unique and offers something off the beaten path of both the Hip-Hop and Rap scenes. For me, this style of music is much like my appreciation of classical music. I know I like it, yet I find it difficult to describe the how and why. Of course, it is plausible to like music for no quantifiable reason.

For this review, I listened to the 16/44.1kHz FLAC and 24/88.2kHz MQA edition, both via TIDAL Hi-Fi. Both editions are beautifully mastered, but the MQA edition sounds more refined and accurate, resulting in a slightly larger soundstage and better bass presentation with less distortion. While I preferred the MQA edition, I certainly wouldn't be disappointed with the 16/44.1kHz CD-quality FLAC edition.

MIA's AIM is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes).

If you prefer streaming, AIM is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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