Review: One More Light by Linkin Park

One More Light by Linkin ParkEarly reaction to One More Light suggests Linkin Park has sold out, giving up a sound it has, more or less, cultivated for the past two decades or so in favor of the vaguely memorable poppy EDM that we’ve been drowning in for the past year or so. Well, arguably, not really. The group has been flirting with these sounds for years; save for the limp return to their old sound on The Hunting Party, they have been smoothing the edges out for the past few albums, with Living Things being the best example. That said, my biggest disappointment with this album is not the “selling out” but the “giving up”. What until now has been a tight group working behind and in front of the scenes has become, essentially, Chester Bennington, a cameo from Mike Shinoda, and a few sliders and faders. The thing that made Linkin Park still worth looking into all these years have completely disappeared, to be replaced by muck we could get (and, perhaps for most of their fans, are actively avoiding) everywhere. Is this a sign of the group running out of ideas, or getting too complacent, or being so bored they’re just having a laugh at our expense? I’d like to think the intentions here are pure, but really, it did not have to be this way. [NB]1/5

Review: Traces by the Ransom Collective

Traces by the Ransom CollectiveIf anything, there’s no bringing the Ransom Collective down. As one of the flag bearers of this new generation of Filipino indie music, they’ve come to represent a sound that, while singularly focused, has an undeniable craftsmanship that attracts the droves predisposed towards them. That brings us to Traces, their first full-length (after a self-titled EP) where they continue the template they’ve set. Yes, it’s not original – the trend of guitar-driven, campfire-evoking indie pop seems to be dissipating – but they do what they do well. Even if I find the album a little relentless – constantly on the up, woefully lacking in shade, hardening my built-in cynicism – I will concede that there are little twirls in the record that evoke a smile. But, yes, for me, a little relentless. A good record, but a little relentless. Or maybe I’m just not in the market. [NB]3/5

Review: Harry Styles by Harry Styles

Harry Styles by Harry StylesIf you heard one of the songs from this album by chance, and you had no inkling it’s Harry Styles, you’d probably like it. I had that experience; I was picked up from the airport last weekend and my brother had “Meet Me in the Hallway” playing, and half-sleepy me had no idea. I’m not saying you’ll instantly dislike this album when you find out it’s that guy from One Direction. It’s just that the label carries so much weight. 1D were not always frothy music, by all means – they have been flirting with classic rock across their four albums – but hearing the group’s breakout go solo with a record carrying a sound that should ooze authenticity results in a bit of dissonance. He can carry the 70s rock influences – most of the songs on his eponymous solo debut are actually enjoyable, and if you don’t listen closely, even the duds do their jobs on a long drive – but he fails to make them his own, dawg, to quote Randy Jackson. (Different reality show, I know.) Remember when everyone thought of David Bowie when “Sign of the Times” was released? Perhaps it’s the baggage – you imagine Harry being that guy from 1D. But no, this isn’t a bad album. It’s good, but he’s just not there yet. It’s a challenge, this thing Harry is doing to himself. He’ll have to push more to really convince us he can embrace these influences. [NB]3/5

Review: Don’t Look Back by Lola Amour

Don't Look Back by Lola AmourLola Amour is an eight-piece jazzy thing that started shooting up in prominence after winning a slot at this year’s Wanderland – and now they’ve released a four-track EP, Don’t Look Back. All right, it’s three tracks and one 90-second interlude at the end, so momentum-wise it does not feel enough; it feels like they’re still holding back. But this is an EP, and that is pointless nitpicking. That said, there’s something budding in the band’s sound. It’s nice that we have kids who aren’t going for your typical indie-pop sound; that alone is inspiring. The songs are tight and there are some good little surprises sprinkled throughout. And I am a sucker for horns; you all know that. I’m hoping to hear them break out of this introduction in future releases, that they forge their way forward with a sound and a sensibility that’s a little more like their own. But again, that perhaps is also nitpicking. It is a good introduction, and all I’m supposed to give out now is hope. [NB]3/5

Review: Signal by Twice

Signal by TwiceWell, here we are again, undertaking the foolish duty of reviewing a Twice mini – that creature that, no matter what you say about it, will be successful anyway. Not that this review ever wanted to take down one of the biggest K-pop groups today. However, the template has been so predictable you wonder why we even bother to do this: a mediocre release (“Cheer Up” is catchy but nothing beats “Like Ooh-Ahh”; everything else was gently downhill) followed by months of dominating every bit of Korean entertainment one consumes. Signal does attempt to move things along: it finally sees the group’s big boss Park Jin-young produce a song for them, and also sees contributions from former Wonder Girl Yenny, as well as Jihyo and Chaeyoung writing “Eye Eye Eyes”. I hear some reggae, and the title track bring the relatively cutesy girls to the world of trap, awkwardly. (It’s terrible because it jars completely with everything the group hasn done before.) But then, Signal is exactly what you expect it to be: it’s a Twice album. It’s forgettable, but it’s completely irrelevant to its success. It’s the default reaction. It’s getting really boring. When I reviewed their last mini Twicecoaster: Lane 1 I argued that they’re hitting diminishing returns. I stand by it. [NB]2/5