It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out newish albums from hook-maestro Charlie Puth, Canadian bluesman Matt Andersen, deceased hitmaker Jeff Buckley and “the most influential artist in 1,000 years”, Kanye West.
New Album from a New Artist
Charlie Puth — Nine Track Mind
You might remember Charlie Puth as the bloke you once thought was Sam Smith, but turned out not to be.
After gaining popularity via YouTube, Puth co-wrote and sang the hook on the Wiz Khalifa mega hit See You Again, the theme song for Fast & Furious 7 and effective eulogy for star F&F Paul Walker.
Born in New Jersey in 1991 (!), Charlie Puth started playing Jazz piano in junior high school, eventually graduating from the Berklee College of Music. He found initial fame via YouTube, where his cover version of Adele’s Someone Like You attracted critical attention and praise.
Shortly after this Puth signed to eleveneleven, the record label established by talk show host and burgeoning media baron Ellen DeGeneres.
After spending a couple of years building his profile, Puth’s contract was taken over by Atlantic records, and most of his previous work was removed from iTunes for artistic and moneymaking purposes. Puth collaborated with artists including CeeLo Green, Meghan Trainor and Jason Derulo, further building his profile and collecting potential guest artists for his debut album, Nine Track Mind.
With a beautiful voice but limited life experience, Charlie Puth is an artist who is likely to improve with age. This is not to say that Nine Track Mind is a bad album — far from it. Vocally outstanding and immaculately produced, Puth’s debut album marks him as a singer to watch, and an artist who will become far more interesting once he has a few scars.
Best tracks: My Gospel, One Call Away
Sample lyric: “I’m sorry I’m not there to give you what you want.” (Losing My Mind)
Verdict: 7/10 – A talented singer with significant potential
New Album from a Self-Appointed Musical Genius
Kanye West — Life of Pablo
Long time readers of this column would know that I’ve had fun at Kanye West’s expense in the past. I called his last album Yeezus “almost completely unlistenable” and made light of the pun-inspired name he gave his daughter, North West. But it appears I was wrong.
Did you know, for instance, that Kanye West is more influential than Stanley Kubrick? According to a recent rant backstage at Saturday Night Live, Kanye is also more influential than Apostle Paul, Pablo Picasso or even Pablo Escobar (the famous drug lord and rap muse). At least 50 per cent more influential, for the next 1,000 years. You should not f**k with him.
If you think the above sounds like the ranting of a lunatic, you would not be the first, as a number of commentators have recently speculated on the possibility that Kanye might be mentally ill. If this turns out to be the case I will probably feel bad about all the unkind things I’ve said about him, but until then…
Life of Pablo is the seventh studio album from Kanye West, and features guest appearances from vocalists including Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper and quality human being Chris Brown. Despite these talented guest stars, Life of Pablo is much like Yeezus, in that it is not very good. In fact, there may even be some kind of inverse relationship between how good the album is and how good Kanye thinks the album is, as he reportedly took umbrage to an American reviewer give him nine out of ten. Enjoy this one, jerkoff.
Best tracks: 30 Hours, No More Parties in L.A.
Sample lyric: “And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.” (I Love Kanye)
Verdict: 2/10 — occasional clever lyrics and smooth flow steamrolled by unbridled arrogance and the excessive use of auto-tune
Shameless Cash In from the Estate of a Deceased Artist
Jeff Buckley — You and I
During his short life Jeff Buckley made exactly one studio album. Released in 1994, Grace was a slow burn, peaking at a humble 149 on the US Billboard chart. Including the singles Grace, So Real and Last Goodbye, the album gradually garnered a following for the softly spoken singer. While recording the follow up album in Memphis, Buckley took a night swim in the Mississippi river and drowned. The year was 1997 and Jeff Buckley was 30 years old.
Barely a year after his death, Columbia records released Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, a collection of unfinished studio tracks and demos from Buckley’s recent recording sessions. It is worth noting that Buckley had publically stated that he wasn’t happy with the songs in their current state, but of course this didn’t stop his record company from trying to recoup their investment.
Almost 20 years later and the vampires have returned Buckley’s the desiccated corpse, digging up an album of cover versions and demos that Buckey used as warm up tracks in the studio.
Recorded in February 1993 to give Columbia execs a taste of Buckley’s talent, You and I includes covers of songs by Bob Dylan (Just Like a Woman), The Smiths (The Boy with the Thorn in his Side) and Led Zeppelin (Night Flight), a somewhat disturbing inclusion considering Buckey was reportedly singing Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love just before he drowned.
At its best, You and I sounds like a mixtape of cover versions by a talented American Idol contestant. At its worst it sounds like a shameless cash grab by a greedy record company more concerned with making money than respecting a deceased artists legacy. But I guess that’s the music business for you.
Best tracks: Grace, Night Flight
Sample lyric: “A hot dry wind blows right through me.” (Calling You)
Verdict: 4/10 — a raw vision of unique talent, but hardly an essential release
Ch-Check it Out…
Matt Andersen — Honest Man
Hailing from Perth-Andover (the one in Canada rather than Australia), Matt Andersen built a following via YouTube and started releasing independent albums in 2007 with One Size Never Fits. Through a combination of hard work and songwriting talent, Andersen has gone on to sell over 30,000 albums and built an international fan base.
Equipped with a powerful gospel voice and the ear for a solid rock hook, Andersen takes influences from country, blues and soul without anchoring himself in any specific genre. Recorded with producer Commissioner Gordon (Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone), Honest Man is Andersen’s 7th studio album, following on from the Juno award nominated Weightless.
With many of the tracks built around a percussive beat, Honest Man is an album for listeners who appreciate a distinct drum sound. Far more Bruce Springsteen than Bryan Adams, Matt Andersen has a killer voice and an interesting take on the world - give him a listen if you have the chance.
Best tracks: Let’s Get Back, Honest Man, One Good Song
Sample lyric: “This ain’t no temporary forever.” (All The Way)
Verdict: 7/10 — well worth checking out for fans of blues/rock
Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Check 'em out!
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