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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

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Kylie Minogue – Golden (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

Kylie Minogue is Madonnic; by which I mean that Australia’s pop princess and one of the country’s most successful musical exports is continually transcending musical trends while remaining familiar and instantly recognisable. Yes, Madonna, has achieved the same level of diversity and evolution, hence the Madonnic association. Nevertheless, Golden sees Minogue adopt a country-pop style that is arguably different from her previous works but works surprisingly well. 

When Golden was released, I took a listen and was captivated enough to add it to my Apple Music library. Revisiting it now, essentially a year later, I want to know if Golden is good enough to add to my physical collection, keep within my digital collection, or remove completely from my music collection with the only recollection of the album being this very review. Between you and I, dear reader, it most certainly isn’t the latter. 

If you’re thinking there is only one edition of Golden, you’d be mistaken. Apple Music may currently only have the Deluxe Edition, but Golden is yet another modern release that has seen too many editions, on too many formats, released too close to each other. There is no doubt that some fans will rejoice with the variety, and it is important to note that my criticism of the multiple editions has nothing to do with the quality of music, but it is frustrating that all bonus tracks don’t make it to the Deluxe Edition. Seriously, shouldn’t a Deluxe Edition contain everything? Clearly, the Deluxe Edition isn’t as deluxe as the record label would like us to believe for the Japanese release includes two additional remixes of Dancing. A streaming edition (not available on Apple Music) features a remix of Stop Me From Falling that features Gente de Zona, while the Collector’s Edition cassette provides a bonus downloadable track, New York City (Live From New York). If that doesn’t cause you enough confusion to run for the hills, a Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes the single edition of Music’s Too Sad Without You. Plus, the Christmas Collector’s Edition cassette includes an exclusive Christmas video message from Minogue. 

Okay, so perhaps additional remixes and live tracks aren’t that impressive and rightly should have been left off the Deluxe Edition as I, myself, have often criticised the inclusion of bonus tracks that add little to no value to the listener. That said, it is still my belief that the Deluxe Edition should contain all additional tracks while a standard edition should be readily available for fans who are just interested in what can be assumed to be the very best selection from the Golden recording sessions.

Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, yes, Golden was also released on vinyl and the cover art on the larger canvas looks incredible; although that format has also seen a variety of options that will send fans broke if they are to try and acquire each and every edition. Golden is not alone in this regard. Many modern releases are designed to part the true fans with their hard-earned money (a phrase I detest, but one that seems appropriate). It’s really disappointing for fans who want to support their beloved artists but need to purchase the album multiple times in order to do so. Yes, I acknowledge that artists, and the record labels, are in the business to make money, but that doesn’t make it right. Certainly, no-one is holding a gun to your head demanding you purchase it, but true completist fans know only too well the desire of collecting. It would be the same as holding an AA meeting in a beer garden and expecting all in attendance to order a lemon squash. Kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? 

Of course, I’m not suggesting that multiple releases should be outlawed, but to release so many editions, so close after the album’s initial release, is what strikes me as opportunistic. Anniversary editions, fine. A simple release schedule of the standard edition available on all formats with a Deluxe Edition (including everything) for the hardcore fans, fine. But the way Golden has been released suggests that for fans to get everything, they need to almost buy one of everything. I guess I just wish that a Deluxe Edition was the defining element for an album’s release and that while exclusives to streaming services have been largely criticised and expunged from said services, the same should apply for physical media thereby allowing the music-lover to purchase the album on the format that they prefer without needing to purchase multiple copies to get questionable bonuses. 

All that said, it’s ultimately the music that matters most. Join me as we take a look at the songs that make up Golden (Deluxe Edition).

Dancing is an incredible song and sets the tone for the entire album. Dancing, is certainly catchy, not far removed from Minogue’s renowned disco-sound, yet with a country vibe that deals with the somewhat sensitive topic of death in a brilliant way that I thoroughly enjoy because I too want to go out dancing!

The music video is excellent and will irritate those who dislike line dancing. Nevertheless, it is well done and mixes perfectly Minogue’s new and old styles while also ensuring the video is familiar to the album artwork that was to come a few months after the single’s initial release. It is, for lack of a better term, the complete package and one of the best modern music videos I’ve seen in a long time. 

Stop Me From Falling flows beautifully from dancing and what better than to contrast the proposition of death with that of falling in love. It’s another stellar song with a very interesting treble-inspired musical approach that works remarkably well. It’s a joy to listen to and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but the rhythm is spot on and I dare you to sit still while Stop Me From Falling is playing. 

The core music video for Stop Me From Falling is a little less story-driven than that for Dancing, but the interlinking of a live performance, behind the scenes elements, and Minogue singing and dancing in solo elements is perfectly edited and is one of those cases where after seeing the music video, the song itself is more profound and even better than when listening to it in the album format.

There is a secondary music video that was shot as well, which is more story driven but is cringeworthy. Even the remix chosen for the song doesn’t appeal to me and I’m glad it wasn’t the edition that appeared on the album. 

Golden has a slightly slower rhythm than the previous tracks, but it’s a lovely song and one that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. That said, I feel Minogue’s vocal could have been stronger throughout. It isn’t so much the mix as I feel she just didn’t knock it out of the park on this track. 

The Golden music video is relatively basic and while this simplicity is rather common as you proceed to, and pass, the third single, the quality often begins to suffer as the record labels don’t really care about putting too much money into promotion after an initial boost. A shame, but at least it isn’t cringeworthy. It is, however, easily forgotten and you’re unlikely to watch it again unless your preferred way to consume music is via music videos.  

A Lifetime To Repair is really pushing the auto-tune/vocal manipulation a little too far for my liking. I know it is the predominant style of the modern pop era, but I feel there are times when it is overused and I feel that becomes apparent throughout this song. It’s still a great tune though and the musicality and soundstage is magnificent. Seriously, listen to A Lifetime To Repair a couple of times and you’ll immediately notice sonic elements that you had missed the previous time around. This is one song where repeat listens really enhances the experience and that fiddle during the chorus is epic; if only it were more prominent in the mix. 

Sincerely Yours is magnificent. A beautiful song from start to finish!

One Last Kiss is a good song, but arguably the first B-side on the album. I’m not convinced that the nasal approach of Minogue’s vocal suits the song. Yes, it works, but it is this element that makes One Last Kiss a B-Side for me. 

Live A Little is addictively good. I love it!

Shelby ‘68 has an exceptional vocal presentation. I love the styling and the beat, and while slow, is absolutely magnificent. This is one of the best songs on the album and I’d argue it’s one of the best songs Minogue has ever recorded. 

Radio On really brings Minogue’s vocal front and centre. It’s a lovely mix and good to hear her voice so clearly as many of the songs that she is known for are musically dense and we rarely get to hear just how beautiful her voice is, other than in a near-acoustic song, such as this, that is a lovely addition to the album. 

Love isn’t a bad song, a little short for my liking, but it works really well within the album format and Golden wouldn’t be the same without it. 

Raining Glitter is a fun song that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to but it’s nothing to write home about and doesn’t push the boundaries of what Minogue is capable of. 

Music’s Too Sad Without You (with Jack Savoretti) is the song that closes out the core 12-track standard edition and vinyl releases of the album. It is a perfect closer. However, the additional four tracks on the Deluxe Edition are excellent and therefore I’d strongly recommend you listen to the Deluxe Edition. That said, Music’s Too Sad Without You is a beautiful song and Jack Savoretti fits in perfectly with Minogue’s style. It’s a great duet-styled song and one of the highlights on Golden.

The music video for Music’s Too Sad Without You is exceptionally good. It’s beautifully filmed and edited with only the bare necessities in place. Although, as perfect as it is, the fade out towards the end of the song begins too abruptly for my liking. Nevertheless, it is one blemish on an otherwise perfect production. 

A live duet of Music’s Too Sad Without You was also recorded and released on Savorett’s Singing To Strangers. It isn’t a bad live recording, the musical elements are recorded extremely well, but the vocals, especially Minogue’s, are lacking in strength within the mix and subsequently sound distant. A shame considering just how good this song is. 

Lost Without You is a great song and while I acknowledge it is a little jolting from the smooth and magnificent Music’s Too Sad Without You, it’s a stellar addition to the Deluxe Edition and once the chorus begins, the mind has adjusted to the sonic shift and all is well. 

Every Little Part Of Me is a great dance meets country meets pop song, but it does challenge the mind a little; not that that is a bad thing!

Rollin’ isn’t Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, but it is perfect for Minogue and is a value-added proposition for fans. 

Low Blow is Lady Gaga meets Kylie Minogue. It isn’t bad, it’s actually really good, but the various stylings are intriguing and while it may not appeal to everyone, I certainly like it. The soundstage and musicality is off-the-charts good and it does what all good closing songs should, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within Minogue’s extensive catalogue. It’s also a song that will induce an earworm for hours and days afterwards. 

Overall, Golden (Deluxe Edition) is an exceptional release that will ultimately appeal to longtime Minogue fans as well as newcomers who appreciate the country-pop style. As an irregular Minogue fan, ever since Locomotion set the charts on fire, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy Golden and plan to pick it up on vinyl as the more I listen to it, the more I become captivated by it. Of course, the problem is deciding which one to get. There is the Limited Edition 180gm Clear Vinyl release, the Limited Edition Super Deluxe Edition (featuring the record, a hardcover book, and the CD – I’ve seen it in person and it looks amazing!). Plus, there is also the standard black vinyl gatefold release and a picture disc edition. Seriously, there are too many versions, aren’t there? Nevertheless, I think I’ve settled on the Super Deluxe Edition as it offers a good balance of everything Golden presents. 

Ultimately, Golden is a fantastic modern country-pop album that is only let down by too many varied editions. 

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

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Glenn Frey – After Hours (Album Review)

Friday night comes, following a busy week, and all you feel like doing is pouring yourself a drink, sitting back, and relaxing with music; well, at least that is what appeals to me. I started out listening to Frank Sinatra’s extraordinary Come Fly With Me, twice, and as I was perusing my record collection, I noticed Glenn Frey’s After Hours. Acknowledging that I hadn’t played it for quite some time and that it is similarly relaxing to Sinatra’s 1958 opus, I took the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the platter, gave the needle a clean and got the carbon fibre brush in order to remove any dust artefacts that may have been present. It is a labour of love. Then it was time. Time to drop the needle, sit back, and enjoy. 

Yes, purists will argue that Frey is nowhere near as soulful and smooth as Sinatra, but the way I look at it is that they are different, not only from a vocal dexterity point-of-view but also from the perspective that After Hours is a stereo production whereas my copy of Come Fly With Me is the mono release. The difference between mono and stereo was ultimately the greatest shift to endure but that soon past within moments as For Sentimental Reasons rang out and opened After Hours. 

As I grew up with stereo sound, the concept of mono has sometimes seemed counterproductive but there is just something about the mono sound that is strangely compelling. It is similar to the difference between digitally delivered music and vinyl. Neither is necessarily better or worse, they are just different and some people vehemently support one format over another. For me, it just has to sound right and the two aforementioned albums certainly do. What I do find, however, is that mono recordings tend to fill the room far better. You still get an incredibly evolved soundstage but there are no audible holes in the soundstage to speak of. Whereas, a couple of times, when listening to After Hours I notice that when Frey isn’t on vocals, the soundstage sounds as though something is missing where he should be. Well, you don’t get that with mono, or certainly not in my experience. That said, it could simply have been an issue with the chosen mix for After Hours; as it only happened a couple of times, it’s not detrimental to the enjoyment of the album and overall After Hours has been recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully.

The vinyl release is quite exquisite. Housed in a gatefold sleeve, the cover art is perhaps a little pedestrian, but it certainly invokes the nighttime street view associated with countless jazz clubs. Therefore, this minimal approach is perfectly suited for the style of music but is unlikely to be memorable or displayed. It’s no Surrender; an incredible jazz album from Victor Cajiao and Joe Cristina that really needs a vinyl release to showcase the gorgeous artwork. Regardless, when you open the gatefold, you’re met with liner notes and a series of absolutely magnificent photos, presented in sepia, to once again connect the artwork to the style and era of the music contained within. 

The record label is beautifully simple and again works with the style Frey was aiming for, on what would sadly be his last album. The record is flat and quiet, with only a small amount of noise noticeable between tracks. It really is a nice vinyl mastering and pressing job. 

While not a disappointment for me, as I will explain later, some may lament the inclusion of only 11 of the 14 available tracks on the vinyl release. Yes, this is another case of the Deluxe Edition blues for those that wish for the vinyl counterpart to have the same tracking as the digital release. Let’s be honest, this is a further attempt to make fans, like you and I, purchase multiple copies. It works, but not on this occasion. Plus, with streaming services now being so varied and readily available, those specific tracks that are on a Deluxe Edition can be streamed if and when it suits me. 

Another reason for not including so many tracks on a vinyl release is that it is a doubled edged sword. On one hand, you want everything, preferably not on multiple records, but the sonic quality suffers the closer grooves are placed together and the dreaded inner-groove distortion is a real problem when a recorded has been mastered and pressed with a focus on filling all available space. It may work perfectly well on the compact disc, but vinyl needs a little more tolerance and while upgrading your needle does help with inner-groove distortion, many people will not go to those extents so it is nice to see that After Hours is mastered in such a way that inner-grove distortion isn’t present; certainly not at an audible level. 

While the three additional songs will be reviewed on their own merit towards the end of this review, I find they’re not compelling enough to buy the Deluxe Edition CD as out of the three, only one is truly worthy of inclusion and even then it doesn’t offer the listener additional value. Of course, that is my subjective opinion and you may feel the additional tracks are excellent. If that is the case, then I would strongly suggest you look at picking up the CD release. 

Another reason why I’m not compelled to pick up the Deluxe Edition to go with my vinyl release is that the tracking is different as these omitted songs are placed throughout the album, thereby changing the flow of the album that I know and love. If those additional songs were included at the end of the Deluxe Edition, as done with Barry Gibb’s In The Now I would have been more inclined to pick up the CD as well. I’m sure you know what it’s like, dear reader, for your beloved album has been remastered and it suddenly has an outtake, demo, or god-forbid an interview at the end of the CD. It is infuriating and while I like additional content, I wish the record labels would add it to an additional disc and leave the master tracking of the album alone. 

Nevertheless, as streaming allows me access to these tracks, I’ll simply add them to my virtual library to enjoy when and if the mood strikes me. On the topic of streaming, I have listened to the album on both Apple Music (Mastered for iTunes) and TIDAL Masters (MQA) and unfortunately, neither stream holds a candle to the vinyl release. That isn’t to say that neither is good, because they are both superb, but I find them very clinical in their presentation and for this style of music I honestly feel the vinyl record is a much better delivery method. Hence, if you can, and if you’re interested, may I suggest you track down a copy of After Hours on vinyl; it really is that good!

SIDE ONE

For Sentimental Reasons is a lovely song and the perfect opener for After Hours. The musicality is spot on as is Frey’s vocal. The light backing vocal element, not often heard on modern recordings, is mixed in perfectly. The end result is a rendition of a classic that is stunning and prepares the listener for the songs that are about to come throughout the rest of the album.

My Buddy is campy, has always been campy, but I love it! That drumming is off-the-charts good and Frey once again is front and centre, as if his spirit is in the room with you, as you enjoy the smoothness of My Buddy.

Route 66 picks up the tempo a little, but Route 66 is one of the greatest classics to have ever been composed and this interpretation is no exception. It isn’t fundamentally different and doesn’t necessarily take the song to a new level of enjoyment, but it doesn’t detract from the origins of the song and pays homage to the history of the most common renditions. 

The Shadow Of Your Smile is a lovely song that would be perfect as the background of any dinner or post-dinner rendezvous. Actually, this entire album could be used in that romantic context. That said, the music-lover within doesn’t want this song to be merely heard as background music, therefore for me and my significant other it may not be the best album to have playing as I would constantly be commenting on just how good it is. Yes, dear reader, I do do that; much to the frustration of my better half. Thankfully, she understands my love of music and while she doesn’t necessarily share it, she lets me harp on about it ad nauseam; yep, she’s a keeper!

Here’s To Life is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It is the perfect way to close out Side One and absolutely encourages me to listen to Side Two. This is one song that I would have loved to have heard George Michael perform on his spectacular Symphonica release as I believe it would have suited his style and vocal capability. That said, Frey performs Here’s To Life absolutely flawlessly and I would say it is one of his greatest vocal recordings, even surpassing that of his younger years in the Eagles. That’s saying a lot considering how much I adore the Eagles and have always been blown away by Frey’s vocal prowess. Music really doesn’t get much better than this!

SIDE TWO

It’s Too Soon To Know is a beautifully smooth tune. 

Caroline, No is one of my favourite songs and Frey knocks it out-of-the-park. 

The Look Of Love is a brilliant song but nobody does it better than Diana Krall. This rendition is enjoyable, but when I hear it I just want to put on Krall’s edition

I’m Getting Old Before My Time has an incredible bass track. It’s really prominent and for lack of a better term is perfect! The song itself isn’t bad, but to be completely honest I’m not overly familiar with it, hence your opinion may be vastly different to my own. 

Same Girl is stunning! 

After Hours is a lovely song to conclude the album with, but I would have preferred Same Girl to be the closing track as I felt it relaxed the mind to such a state that it would have been the ultimate closer. Nevertheless, After Hours is no slouch in that department and it encourages me to flip the album and listen again. It’s also important to note that this is the only original composition from Frey on the album. Writing with Jack Tempchin, the result is incredible and doesn’t feel out-of-place with the other standards featured on this release. That’s no easy task, even if you are as skilled as these gentlemen. Standards are standards for a reason and After Hours is a modern-day offering. 

Additional Deluxe Edition Tracks:

The Good Life is a lovely song that offers a nice flow from My Buddy in the Deluxe Edition version and leads well into Route 66’s upbeat as it has a little faster tempo than My Buddy. However, as good as it is, I don’t find that I miss it on the vinyl release. It is very short and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the song’s over before it started.

Worried Mind has a country twang to it and while Frey and the supporting musicians perform it incredibly well, it doesn’t suit the rest of the songs on the album and therefore I am very happy that it is only on the Deluxe Edition of After Hours.

I Wanna Be Around is lovely and while it could have been included on the vinyl release, I honestly don’t feel After Hours needed this additional track as I don’t feel the 11-track release is lacking in substance.

There is little doubt that After Hours represents Glenn Frey at his very best. Yes, his Eagles work is beyond reproach, but After Hours is his greatest solo release and is an album that should be in everyone’s collection. It really is that good!

After Hours is available to own on Vinyl, CD, and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). A Deluxe Edition is also available on CD and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes)

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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Diana Ah Naid – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Sonically positioned somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette is Australia's own, Diana Ah Naid. Ian McFarlane describes this 1997 independent, self-funded, release as a restless, funky brand of acoustic guitar folk with urgently charged vocals backed by an emotional, primal energy – Encyclopedia of Australian Rock And Pop. I don't know about you, dear reader, but McFarlane is spot on and no amount of pondering on my behalf could come up with a more precise review of this thoroughly satisfying Self-Titled release. That said, join me as I take a look at the individual songs and how I subjectively feel about them and the entire album.

I Go Off is a musical wonderland with nothing more than a vocal and guitar track filling the soundstage. While both are beautifully presented and recorded, Ah Nard's vocal prowess is simply astonishing. How she isn't a household name, is an absolute mystery.

If You Insist has a beautiful introduction. That guitar tuning is stunning and provides the perfect backing to the song. In some ways, it is a little too similar to I Go Off, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as it develops a sound that allows the listener to identify and connect with the artist.

Fill Me Up has a good rhythm and a very alternative vocal presentation that is perfect for the style of music. The added brass instrumentation really builds a sonically pleasurable soundstage that ensures Fill Me Up is memorable and ready to be played on repeat. If you enjoy World Music, you'll love Fill Me Up.

See Through is an interesting composition that is a little scattered in places, but the hook is catchy. A solid addition to the album, but nothing to write home about.

Make It Begin is sonic gold. That musical introduction is magical as the piano is beautifully recorded. You really need to listen for yourself to appreciate just how amazing it is. Make It Begin may be mellow, but it’s one of the best songs on the album, if not the best. Absolutely stunning!

Wrapped Around My Head is a lovely tune but fails to fully captivate my senses. I find my mind wandering when listening to the song.

Ruok? is short, but spectacular!

Get Yourself Lost is a little too erratic and subsequently, I find it difficult to connect with a specific rhythm.

Leaving The Country is a gorgeous tune. Ah Naid's vocal presentation is mind-blowingly good. It is as if an angel is singing to you, and only you.

Flowers is a B-side that I simply can't get into.

K9 is musically impressive, but I have to be honest and say I would much prefer for it to have been an instrumental interlude as the vocal distracts the listener from the musicality.

Freaky Animals is an interesting tune that I enjoy, but I also have reservations with the child vocal inclusion towards the end as I'm not sure it suits the song. There is also an error on the Apple Music stream whereby this song continues in silence for a further minute and a half. It's a shame as the error makes you think the album has concluded, but there is one more song to be played as the original CD release had a hidden 13th untitled track. That track is now listed in Apple Music as Schlork Your S*****g. Subsequently, it looks as though the album has been uploaded directly from the CD and it infuriates me when this happens. I've never liked bonus hidden tracks, and this is further proof that they should be abolished. Albums that include this common CD-feature should, at the very least, be re-tracked when uploaded to streaming music services. 

Despite my above complaint, Schlork Your S*****g is an interesting track to conclude the album with. The chorus does drive me mad, but I appreciate the artistic intent and the verses are strong enough to hold the song together ensuring I’ll play the album again and continue to explore Ah Naid's catalogue. Speaking of that, it is important to note that all post-2004 releases by Diana Ah Naid are released as Diane Anaid

Overall, Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is thoroughly enjoyable and while I have some reservations, as detailed above, all songs work extremely well in the album format.

Diana Ah Naid's Self-Titled debut is available for purchase on iTunes, or if you prefer streaming, the album is available on Apple Music.

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

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Sophia Pfister – Birdcage (Album Review)

In 2016 I declared that the world needed a complete Sophia Pfister album as her Self-Titled EP was so captivating, due in part to Pfister's sultry vocals and the production quality, that I simply wanted more. During the last couple of years, I've seen sporadic updates of the recording process and in August, Pfister dropped her first full-length album, on vinyl first and then a later on digital stores and streaming services.

At the time of the album's release, I was busy moving home and subsequently delayed ordering the vinyl edition. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’ve still yet to place my order, however, just as I did with Pfister's debut EP, I can review the streaming edition and compare the vinyl release at a later date. Pfister is actually the perfect artist to do this with as she is a proponent of the vinyl format and I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever see Birdcage on the various digital platforms. While I applaud her commitment to the vinyl format, especially considering she remains independent and these releases are completely self-funded, I feel it is far more important for independent artists to focus on attention, rather than the delivery method. With that in mind, I don’t feel streaming and other digital delivery methods challenge artistic intent, for the physical counterpart should always offer a value-added proposition to the music lover. It is also important to remember that no matter how much we champion the vinyl format, there will always be those amongst us who dislike or are not interested in the format and that is okay. Yes, one could argue that exclusivity towards formats should be viewed in the same manner as attending an art gallery, or concert venue, where the consumer needs to go where the artist feels their work is best represented. If I were reviewing Beyoncé’s exceptional Lemonade, and the associated initial exclusivity with TIDAL, I’d agree with my aforementioned statement, but with one caveat – Beyoncé is a household name and therefore can afford to lose the attention of the casual fans as her rabid fan base will follow her to whatever platform or venue she decides to release her music via. While I’ve no doubt Pfister can reach similar heights throughout her career, it takes time to develop an audience and that audience needs access to Pfister without restrictions at this stage in her career. 

Birdcage (Feat. White Buffalo Stands) offers a seamless transition from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. If you loved that release, as I did, you'll feel right at home as it’s a beautiful way to start the album. The backing indigenous-styled vocals towards the end of the song are beautiful and show a skilled layering of musicality that has evolved since Pfister's Self-Titled EP.

The Wheel is a rather complex composition, with a variety of musical elements and styles throughout. While on paper it shouldn't work, it absolutely does and it's one of those songs that offer the listener something unique upon each listen.

Drifting is a beautiful vocal-focused tune. It’s thoroughly relaxing and that Banjo element, that I claimed was too prominent on Pfister's song, Sugardaddy, I find is perfectly mixed here and is simply stunning. In fact, the entire soundstage and musical depth of Drifting is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, dear reader, this is sonically how good music should sound. Exceptional!

Loved By Strangers has a very familiar rhythm that picks up the pace of the album. The composition, again, is rather complex, but you feel as though you are encapsulated by musical elements as the soundstage is perfectly presented with incredible instrument separation. Another great tune!

Bad Decisions is the greatest song Pfister has written and recorded thus far. As I listen to this masterpiece, I’m reminded of Adele, on stage, singing Hello. Yes, it is that good and this song is stadium ready and a massive hit just waiting to be discovered.

Ride The Wave isn't a bad song, but I feel there are elements within that have been borrowed too heavily from Pfister's Self-Titled EP. Of course, following Bad Decisions was always going to be a challenging task. That said, if there is a B-side to be heard, it is Ride The Wave.

Separate Ways (Feat. Dave Alvin) is second only to Bad Decision. It’s bloody brilliant and an exceptional duet. I love it! If I had one criticism, it would be that the electric guitar tracking should have been a couple of decibels louder, especially towards the end of the song.

Living In The Grey is a thoroughly enjoyable closing track that ensures I'll listen to the album again and stay within Pfister's small, but growing, catalogue of music.

Birdcage is an absolutely stunning debut album and, by any standards, is world-class. When you compare it to some of the big name mainstream releases, you can only wonder how they have received recording contracts while Pfister remains independent. Of course, Pfister may decide to remain independent, but she has the musical talent to be one of the leading ladies in the music industry and while the industry is changing, record labels and solid management and promotional teams remain vital to achieving such heights, especially at the beginning of one’s career as a musician.

I can, without doubt, confirm that Birdcage is both sonically beautiful on Apple Music and TIDAL Hi-Fi. Yes, TIDAL's CD-quality stream offers a little more depth but the core performance is transparent, regardless of the delivery platform, meaning that the recording, mixing, and mastering is absolutely perfect. With that in mind, and knowing just how good Pfister’s debut vinyl EP sounded, I can't wait to get the vinyl release of Birdcage. Speaking of which, I better go and order myself a copy before they sellout.

Birdcage is available on Vinyl, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), iTunes, and Bandcamp.

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

Click here to read other Sophia Pfister reviews by Subjective Sounds.

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Ed Sheeran – + (Album Review)

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Ed Sheeran – + (Album Review)

Nothing excites me more than an exceptional debut album. The debut has the capacity to make or break an artist and if done well, as in the case of Ed Sheeran's +, it becomes not only a benchmark for Sheeran's future works but a template for his contemporaries to aspire to.

The A Team was the first single from + and it’s simply superb. That guitar strum provides all the melody that is needed to back Sheeran's gorgeous vocal. The A Team, as well as the entire album, is well recorded, mixed, and mastered. Sensational!

Drunk is a great song, but what I enjoy most is hearing the rawness of Sheeran's vocal presentation. It sounds as if he’s singing directly into your ear, especially during the chorus. It's a special moment when the recording techniques and associated equipment get out of the way and allow the artist to connect directly with the listener. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it blows my mind and demands my attention, ensuring this song will be regularly placed on repeat.

U.N.I. is beautiful!

Grade 8 has a great beat, but the song is a little campy in places. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either.

Wake Me Up is an incredible composition. Simple, yet diverse. I love it!

Small Bump has a sensational rhythm. The entire song is off-the-charts and is one of the best songs on +.

This is yet another magnificent song.

The City is a B-side. Adequate, but less compelling than all previous songs. However, when listening in the album format, The City works well and the album wouldn't be the same without it.

Lego House is no B-side and one can understand why it was chosen as a single. That chorus is pure gold!

You Need Me, I Don't Need You has a great hook. Sheeran certainly has the chops to deliver fast-paced lyrics. Let’s hope he doesn't suffer from getting tongue twisted as Billy Joel has a handful of times when performing We Didn't Start The Fire.

Kiss Me is remarkably good. Such a smooth, yet layered vocal. No wonder Sheeran has had so much success. It is impossible not to be drawn into his music.

Give Me Love is a solid track to conclude the album with, but I tend to dislike hidden tracks as The Parting Class technically closes the album following 20 seconds of silence. I don't know about you, but I’d much prefer the hidden track to be listed and presented as a song on its own. I understand the appeal of hidden tracks, but as a fan of the album format, I find the extended silence between the final listed song and the hidden track to be infuriating. That said, The Parting Class is a nice addition to the album and it could be argued that it is an ideal closing to +. I’d likely agree with that sentiment if it were not for the aforementioned moments of silence and the inability to select and play The Parting Class unimpeded.

Overall, however, + is one of the greatest debut albums ever released. If you have an interest in Folk or Indie Pop music, you need to have this album in your collection. I can’t tell you the number of times I have picked up the vinyl release, only to put it back. I’ve honestly lost count. Regardless, next time I come across it, it will be an immediate purchase. It is simply that good!

+ is available on Vinyl, CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, + is also available on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Spotify.

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

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(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton – [Compilation Review]

Few would argue about the influence of Melbourne's music scene in the 70s, for it was the mecca of the Australian Music Industry at the time. That said, I'm sure my Sydney neighbours would fervently disagree. While I’m Sydney born and bred, good music is good music and (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton validates that point. With a runtime nearing three hours, this compilation is an extensive trip down memory lane, but will also excite those of us that missed out on experiencing this wonderfully vibrant music scene during its heyday.

SkyhooksCarlton (Lygon Street Limbo) is the perfect song to open this compilation. Not only were Skyhooks one of the most successful bands on the scene, at the time, but Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo) incorporates the energy and musicality of the 70s. A sensational song!

The SportsWho Listens To The Radio? (Original 7" Version) is one of my all-time favourite songs, having heard it repeatedly, ironically, on the radio. Yet, until listening to this compilation, I never knew who the artist was. Now I do and I have this compilation and streaming music to thank for bringing me back to one of the coolest songs from the era.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSo Young is another sensational song and reminds me, in spirit, of Tom Petty. I love it!

The DotsLowdown is a little rough around the edges, but that adds to the character of the song. However, I’d argue that while Lowdown isn't a standout song, it is thoroughly enjoyable and the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

StilettoMiddle Of The Bed is a sensational classic with a killer vocal, rhythm, and an intriguing guitar tune.

The Bleeding HeartsHit Single has a disjointed musical style that surprisingly works perfectly. Hit Single is dynamic and never dull. I don't know about you, dear reader, but it’s a hit from my perspective. It also has a slight Skyhooks influence; what's not to like?

Mighty KongHard Drugs (Are Bad For You) is another rhythmic monster. Seriously, you have to listen to this compilation, it is hit after hit. Incredible!

Mondo RockPrimal Park is a solid tune but it has a little too much pop-influence for my liking. However, there are certain elements, such as the chorus, that are spot on and thoroughly enjoyable.

Mark GillespieSuicide Sister is pure perfection!

High Rise BombersFaster Than Light is a great song. That brass section undoubtedly makes the song and I could happily listen to Faster Than Light on repeat for hours.

The ToadsEudil is addictive. Yes, even that interesting near-pop-based backing vocal grows on you; the song would be lost without it.

The Pelaco BrosMechanics In A Relaxed Manner isn't a bad blues-based tune, but I find the mix confuses my mind as the vocal presentation is too forward and slightly offbeat to the rhythm. In some respects, it is as though two songs have morphed into one.

The Relaxed MechanicsTruckin' Casanova is a campy tune, but I can't help but love it. An absolute classic and arguably a song that only an Australian band could have conjured up.

MillionairesGossip has a shifting tempo that takes a little getting used to. It isn't my favourite song from the compilation, but there was bound to be at least one of the tracks that didn't connect with me.

The KevinsOut At Night is a great song. Yes, another campy tongue-in-cheek song, but such is Australian humour.

Martin Armiger & Buzz LeesonNo Reason is a killer classic rock tune.

ParachuteThe Big Beat isn't anything to write home about, but the compilation wouldn't be the same without it.

Spare ChangeLet's Get Rich Together is one of those songs that takes repeat listens to truly enjoy. That said, once the connection is made, you'll be hypnotised by this exceptional song.

The Glory BoysThe Ballad Of Good & Evil is a fantastic song. The rhythm is amazing, but that vocal delivery is off-the-charts. So Good!

Eric Gradman Man And MachineCrime Of Passion is a solid song with an interesting vocal overlay. The sonic shift, mid-song, is also intriguing and while I'm unsure of how I really feel about Crime Of Passion, it suits the compilation perfectly.

Martin ArmigerI Love My Car is certainly reminiscent of the era, but I’d argue that it’s not quite worthy of this collection.

The Bleeding HeartsBoys (Greg Macainsh Demo Version) is a great track. It kinda makes me wonder what the non-demo version sounds like as this edition was already ready for prime-time in my opinion.

StilettoRozalyn is a killer song. The vocal delivery, in particular, is absolutely sensational, making for one of the best songs on the compilation. That said, there is a little sibilance in the vocal that can be distracting, especially when listening via headphones.

The DotsI See Red is rather rough around the edges, reminding me a little of the early Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan recordings. Overall, however, it isn't a bad song but it could have been great with a little more spit and polish.

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsOnly The Lonely Hearted isn’t a song to write home about, but it's a solid addition to this compilation.

The SportsSuddenly is a great song that improves upon each listen. I love the vocal style and Suddenly is perfectly mixed.

Mondo RockTelephone Booth has a great rhythm that is full of energy. I dare say Telephone Booth would have been exceptional when played live.

Daddy CoolSaturday Night (GTK Live) is merely satisfactory as there are much better Daddy Cool songs that could have been selected for this compilation.

SkyhooksHey, What's The Matter? (Steve Hill Demo Version) is awesome! Although, the final master recording is even better. Regardless, it's Skyhooks, what is not to like?

Company CaineBuzzin’ With My Cousin is a little too left of the centre for me. That doesn't mean that you won't like it, but I just don’t connect with it.

Captain Matchbox Whoopee BandRoll That Reefer is different and feels out-of-place, but it’s certainly a compelling tune.

Stephen Cummings & Dave FlettThe Third Degree sounds too much like The Rolling Stones. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the song is excellent, but I do value uniqueness.

Rock GraniteYou Got Me Where You Want Me is a toe-tapper and a head-bopper. Great tune!

Jo Jo Zep & The FalconsSomeday It's Gonna Come To You (1976 Demo Version) is far better than the demo tag would make you believe. A sensational song!

Mark GillespieComin' Back For More is thoroughly enjoyable.

AutodriftersLocked Out Of Love is not my type of song, but you may enjoy it; especially if you're a Hank Williams fan.

Fabulous NudesI'll Be A Dag For You, Baby is daggy! It isn't the greatest song and should have been omitted from the compilation.

The Pelaco BrosTruckdrivin' Guru is a solid song, but nothing to write home about and again we have a song that is somewhat influenced by The Rolling Stones. I guess imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

Peter Lillie & The LeisuremastersHangin' Round The House is brilliant! An Aussie Classic!

The SportsLive Work & Play (Nightmoves Live) isn't a bad song but I'm more interested in the polish that often accompanies studio recordings. That said, this is a strong live performance with plenty of energy.

High Rise BombersRadio Show is a great song and that jam session mid-song is superb.

Eric Gradman Man & MachineBright Boy has an addictive beat and is overall an exceptional song.

SkyhooksThis Is My City is a great way to close this compilation. It ensures that I'll listen again as Skyhooks can do no wrong in my opinion.

For those of you calculating the track listing, some will wonder why there are only 43 songs reviewed, rather than the 45 included on the album. Sadly, likely due to contractual permissions, Daddy Cool’s Boy You're Paranoid and The Indelible Murtceps' Blue Movies Made Me Cry are missing from streaming services. This discrepancy is yet another reason why owning the CD is a good idea as you're not limited to accessing the music you love by outside influences that are out of your control. Despite this, (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is an incredible compilation of Australian artists from the 70s and the reputable Melbourne music scene. While there are a couple of songs that don't connect with my soul, the compilation as a whole does. Subsequently, every song, regardless of my subjective viewpoint, is essential.

(When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton is available on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1kHz FLAC), and iTunes. It’s important to note that the aforementioned absent songs are available if you purchase the album.

If the omission of those two songs doesn’t worry you, you can also stream (When The Sun Sets Over) Carlton on Spotify and Apple Music.

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

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19-Twenty – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Exceptional music isn’t just the domain of mainstream artists. Independent artists, such as 19-Twenty, are often just as talented, if not superior. Thanks to music streaming, finding these exceptional acts is easier than ever before.

19-Twenty is an Australian-based band with a sound that infuses soft rock, blues, roots, and folk music. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I find this blending to be absolutely compelling and addictive to listen to.

The Tavern is a beautiful song, with sensational vocals and overall musicality. It sets the tone of the album and shows just how talented 19-Twenty were at the commencement of their recording career. The Tavern also has an addictive rhythm and the mix, soundstage, and mastering will blow your mind. Exceptional!

Kiama Town is simply stunning!

Lorne picks up the pace in a literal fast-plucking manner. I love it!

Louis Collins distorts and electrifies 19-Twenty's sound beautifully. It reminds me a little of early Rolling Stones and certainly Keith Richards' overall style on his latest solo release, Crosseyed Heart.

45 Degrees is an incredible song. This album just keeps getting better and better.

Wasn't For The Beat, with its frantic guitar strumming isn’t generally an element of acoustic music that I enjoy. Nevertheless, the song grows on you the more you listen to it.

Bucket Of Poison goes the grungy distortion route and interestingly reminds me of Adele’s Rumour Has It. That works for me. A solid 10/10!

1920'S Blues is a B-side and feels a little offbeat when compared to the rest of the album.

16 Hours has a simply stunning vocal presentation. Acoustic-based music doesn't get much better than this!

Slow It Down has a fantastic beat and rhythm that ensures I’ll listen to the album again and stay within 19-Twenty's growing catalogue.

As far as debut albums by Independent artists go, 19-Twenty is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish and the band has proven that a big recording contract, while likely desirable, does not dictate the quality of one's music.

While I would love to own this album on vinyl, I don't believe it was ever pressed to the format. The edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi is sonically perfect, but I’ll be tracking down a copy of the CD as it is certainly worth adding to my permanent physical music library.

19-Twenty can be purchased on CD and iTunes.

If you prefer streaming, 19-Twenty is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

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Hank Williams Jr. – 127 Rose Avenue (Album Review)

While he may not be the original, Hank Williams Jr. is one of the most talented and engaging country music performers on the planet.

127 Rose Avenue is a sonically gorgeous album and I was amazed to learn that Williams Jr. also took on the responsibility of the mastering process. Normally musicians record, occasionally mix, and leave the mastering to others. That, at times, results in questionable outcomes and I would much prefer that the musician master the performance, or at the very least be present for the mastering sessions thereby ensuring their fans are going to receive a facsimile as close to the original intent as possible. While we can talk ad nauseam about high-resolution, vinyl superiority, and file formats, none of this is relevant to 127 Rose Avenue as the original recording was mastered perfectly for the 16/44.1 kHz Redbook CD format. Seriously, the results are incredible and if you truly want to hear what the artist intended, then look no further than 127 Rose Avenue.

Farm Song has a great toe tapping beat and the guitar soloing is spot on. Fantastic!

Red, White & Pink Slip Blues is a gorgeous slow song that while inherently different to Farm Song, blends in perfectly. When it comes to Country Music tempo, I absolutely love this style of song as I could listen to it for hours. The soundstage is massive and I encourage you to pump the volume. It is one of the best songs on the album and one of my all-time favourite country music songs.

High Maintenance Woman has an incredible drum performance. This is how drums should sound. None of that synthetic rubbish we hear so often in modern recordings. Yes, drum machines have their place, but they can never replace a proper drum setup, driven by a skilled musician. Overall, the song is superb and will have your body moving like all great upbeat country music should.

Mighty Oak Tree slows the album down for another ballad-style track, but the tracking is done so well that there is no jolt to the senses. Mighty Oak Tree really shows off Jr.'s vocal chops and has me swaying with eyes closed as I am left mesmerised by sonic perfection. Every element is spot on and I adore the guitar and intermingling fiddle performance.

Forged By Fire has a massive soundstage. There are no crushed dynamics here! The chorus is addictive and that guitar work is once again glorious. The meaning behind the lyrics is also very touching.

Last Driftin' Cowboy has a classic country feel to it, but I'm not sure it works well as my mind struggles to connect emotionally with the song. That said, I can respect the intent of the song, but I would class it as a B-side.

127 Rose Avenue is sonic perfection. I love it!

All The Roads is a good song, but it isn't generally the style of country music that I appreciate. It is, however, recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. Perhaps my dislike for this style is the fact that it can often come across as jarring on the senses, thankfully that isn’t the case for All The Roads.

Sounds Like Justice returns the album to the county sound I appreciate most. The lyrics for this song are brilliant and while I generally appreciate music void of lyrical meaning, that is not the case when listening to 127 Rose Avenue.

Long Gone Lonesome Blues is a song that reminds me of Keith Richards’ Crosseyed Heart. Needless to say, I love this song.

Gulf Shore Road is a gorgeous song to close the album with. It is so good that upon each listen I am disappointed that the album has come to an end. For perhaps the first time ever, I really wanted the album to have a longer runtime. That said, I will take quality over quantity every time. As such, I find myself listening to 127 Rose Avenue on repeat for hours on end. It also encourages me to explore Hank Williams Jr.'s extensive catalogue.

For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Hi-Fi (16/44.1 kHz FLAC) edition of the album.

127 Rose Avenue is available for purchase on CD, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes. If you prefer streaming, you can also listen to the album on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

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Lucy, Racquel And Me (Self-Titled Debut Album Review)

One of the greatest pleasures I have in publishing Subjective Sounds is the numerous review requests I receive from independent artists. I consider myself very fortunate to get to listen to a number of unique and fresh performances, that I would otherwise be unaware of. Plus, as an independent publisher, I feel a connection with these individuals who are forging their own path. That said, I get the most satisfaction from hitting the publish button, thereby sharing my subjective thoughts with you, my dear readers.

Now that I have pressed that publish button, I would like to introduce you to a musical collaboration spanning three continents. Lucy, Racquel And Me is the performance moniker for three incredibly talented musicians. I’ve no doubt you will be left speechless with this debut release, so sit back, relax, and join me as I explore the self-titled debut of Lucy, Racquel and Me.

Hello Sunday is unfortunately not the greatest song to start the album with as it is too campy for my liking. I’m sure some of you will adore it, but I feel that Lucy, Racquel and Me are incredibly more talented than the song portrays. This becomes increasingly apparent as you listen to the entire album.

Children In Bare Feet has a beautiful rhythm. The vocal dexterity in this song is something to behold. It is an incredible composition and the guitar solo is perfectly placed. An exceptional song!

One Day has a killer guitar introduction that is simply out of this world. One Day merges jazz and blues elements into the soundstage and it was this song that compelled me to write this review. You don't often hear songs of this calibre by mainstream artists, let alone independent artists. It is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully as you truly experience your own private performance with the band. Music like this reaches out, grabs you, and doesn’t let go till the final note is played.

Shattered is equally beautiful. The last three songs have proven to me that my harsh opinion of Hello Sunday was justified. When a band can produce a song as incredible as Shattered, anything less is a compromise they don't need to make.

Untraceably Gone is gorgeous. I’m blown away!

Love Now is an enjoyable song, but it is a B-side.

Gone Baby Gone is a song I absolutely adore. However, it wasn’t until hearing the vocal delivery that I really began to appreciate the musical direction of the song. With that in mind, I do find the instrumentation to be a little busy and I would prefer the vocal to be more present in the soundstage.

What Did We Do Wrong? is a gorgeous acoustic song that includes a Bossa Nova rhythm. Yes, this combination works incredibly well. Personally, I love the Bossa Nova sound and implementing it in this manner is pure perfection.

All True has an incredible sonic presence. Amazing!

Coffee Queen is a little jolty after the relaxed nature of All True, but I do enjoy the rhythm and that bass strum is fantastic.

Silence For Beginners is too close to the easy listening jazz piano bar sound for my liking. That isn't to say it is a bad song, just that as with Hello Sunday, I believe Lucy, Racquel And Me are talented beyond this level of musicality. 

Overall, as a debut album by an independent band, Lucy, Racquel And Me is nothing short of exceptional. The album is recorded, mixed, and mastered beautifully. These are indeed three very talented musicians and I’ll be sure to watch their career as they progress, for I believe they have what it takes to go all the way to the top; just not with Hello Sunday.

Lucy, Racquel And Me is available for purchase on the TIDAL Store and iTunes. For those who prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.

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