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Archive for November, 2007

SINGLE REVIEW: Ayumi Hamasaki- Together When…

Ayumi Hamasaki- Together When...

After listening to Ayumi Hamasaki’s above average single ‘talkin’ 2 myself’, I realized that though often overrated, she does manage to make decent, or even more than decent, music. I hated her Glitter/Fated single, but I’m hoping songs like that just won’t arise again. Together When… is Hamasaki’s most recent digital single, and I decided to review it. So, here it is, Ayumi Hamasaki’s ‘Together When…’.

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As soon as the opening piano chords of Together When… began, I was reminded of her latest album’s main song JEWEL. It was a good thing since that was one of the only songs I absolutely loved by her. The quiet piano serves the song well, especially since the fact that it gets more apparent during the chorus makes the entire song more dramatic. In case you haven’t noticed, I like hearing dramatic storires in my music, and it’s always a plus. Hamasaki gives a good vocal performance in this song, and it’s a great way to enter the Winter season. Everything about this song works surprisingly well. The violin in there with the piano adds to the calm atmosphere, and the consistency is wonderful. It was very well composed, which i’ve been seeing a lot recently. This is really a great song that is up to par with the recent releases, which have been great.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

SINGLE GRADE: A+

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SINGLE REVIEW: alan- Ashita e no Sanka

alan- Ashita e no Sanka

So I haven’t listened to the whole song yet, but I listened to a preview, and I want to make it clear right now that a lot of people might not like her… I could be wrong, and a lot of people could love it [Fine with me :P], but I’m not sure. I don’t really have any information on this singer, however I know that she is of Chinese origin and definitely into that fact. Her music seems to be very Chinese influenced. So here’s to a hopefully unique single, alan’s ‘Ashita e no Sanka’.

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Wow, Ashita e no Sanka is a full on bombardment of Chinese culture with the exception of the fact that it’s in Japanese. alan is clearly into sticking to her Chinese roots, and I respect that. This is probably the most unique song (that’s actually worth listening to) that I’ve seen come out of the Japanese music scene. alan has a gorgeous way of hitting those power notes in the most Chinese manner, and I absolutely love it. This song is definitely a ballad, though powerful, and the quiet varied percussion supported the vocals very well. The music had a very apparent Chinese influence, and there was no doubt of what you were listening to once it began. Even though alan’s vocals were all over the place in many notes, it really felt like she was in control. I could tell that she was directing and executing each note, and that security made the song even more pleasurable to listen to. This might not be for everyone, but I can’t get enough.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A+ 

Overall Grade: A+

Musically, Sakura Modern is also very influenced by Chinese styles, even though it was slightly more upbeat. The main instrument I heard during the first verses was something I can’t put a name to. I guess it was like a xylophone? Maybe? alan gives a more agressive vocal performance in this, but I can’t quite say that it was all that fast. The beats and music was still quite slow and ballad-ish even though it was a bit quicker than the previous track. I didn’t find this song to be as engaging as the cover side, but it is still well done. The music draws more attention in this song than the vocals. There were a couple points where the music built up and I was expecting some blasting vocals, but they never really came. Not a disappointing song, just a bit underwhelming.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

SINGLE GRADE: A+

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[Single] BoA’s ‘LOSE YOUR MIND’

SINGLE REVIEW: BoA- LOSE YOUR MIND

BoA- LOSE YOUR MIND

So I’m really loving the cover of BoA’s latest single, and I can’t wait to hear the song. With a title like ‘LOSE YOUR MIND‘, I’m really hoping for an upbeat dance number. BoA’s latest singles have been good, but I want something ridiculously amazing like so many of the songs on VALENTI that I couldn’t put down when I first started listening to her. I really like her voice, and I’m confident that powerhouse BoA can make a comeback… Here we go, BoA’s ‘LOSE YOUR MIND’.

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Whoo, I’m really pleased with LOSE YOUR MIND. The song starts off with some rolling electric guitar and calm vocalizations from BoA soon accompanied by some percussion and miscellaneous sounds. The song is most definitely upbeat, and although a bit less than what I wanted, still a strong and entertaining song. BoA’s vocal performance was top notch throughout the song and really made me wild (<– Hehe, thats one of the lyrics…). The song is super danceable and just does everything the right way for me. Other than a random screaming of the word ‘Yeah’, every note was well executed and attractive. I loved the interlude that featured the DOPING PANDA guy, although I have no idea who he is. He’s good at guitar at least. The song had a wonderful consistency and the music was gorgeously composed. BoA did a fantastic job on this song.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

The single’s upbeat nature comes to a screeching, piano accompanied halt with the ballad Smile Again. The music is very heartfelt and even a bit christmas-ish, dare I say. It’s really a beautiful song, and BoA’s vocals really are at their very best. The verses are very slow and calm, but the chorus picks up for a dramatic and sweeping effect that makes the song as good as it is. I wish they had used an echo effect or something of the sort on her voice so that it would be even more dramatic, because it sounds a bit dry since they didn’t do anything other than the bare minimum of vocal adjustments. Oh well, it proves that BoA’s voice is gorgeous and doesn’t even need background vocals to support it. I love BoA’s power notes because of how strong they are, and there were plenty in this song, which makes me happy.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

SINGLE GRADE: A

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[Single] AZU’s ‘JEWEL SKY’

SINGLE REVIEW: AZU’s ‘JEWEL SKY’

AZU- JEWEL SKY

I like this cover a lot better than AZU’s previous single, CHERISH. I don’t know if I should expect something different or not, but I’m just hoping it’s well done. AZU’s vocals in her debut single surprised me and I was really excited to listen to the whole thing, so now I’m just hoping this follow up single measures up. Here is AZU’s latest single ‘JEWEL SKY’.

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The A-Side of this single is the upbeat pop song JEWEL SKY. I really like this song as well, thankfully, and I’m impressed by the powerful and almost dramatic vocal performance. The feeling it adds to the song is interesting, and AZU definitely deserves that record deal. The music in this song is the typical pop style percussion, but it has a continual and well-done brass element in the background that adds a unique atmosphere to the song. AZU’s music has had brass before, but this is the first song in which it depends mostly on it. The whole thing just flows really well together, and I’d go as far as to say this is a step up from her already impressive debut single. If she keeps up this trend she will have a very impressive album.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The second song on the JEWEL SKY, single is SO WONDERFUL, a song that features a tempo pretty close to that of the cover track. The first thing I noticed about the song was that there were quite a few things going on all at the same time in the introduction, which actually sounded really nice. What I thought to be an upbeat song slowed down as the verses started, but I’m actually really glad. AZU gives a fantastic vocal performance, and it really makes the song wonderful. This track is stronger than the previous, and possibly one of my favorites from her thus far. The chorus picks up in speed but still manages to sound heart felt. Though this isn’t a ballad, it is pretty much as close as you can get. AZU’s music surprises me once again with a guitar solo in the first part of the last third of the song. Everything about this song works well, and it has a great consistency.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The final song on this single is Kimi ni Yomu Uta, which is the true ballad. This song features gentle guitar chords and beautiful vocals on AZU’s part. I’m still hearing a similarity to Koda Kumi in her, but I can definitely hear the differences and uniqueness of AZU’s vocals. There is some percussion thrown in with the guitar, and possible even some piano. Musically the song is yet again well done, and I think anyone can really appreciate this girl’s music. Vocally this song is incredibly strong, and I’m very surprised at her ability to pull off such a range of tempos. Although I don’t think this ballad is as good as VIOLIN from her last single, it’s still wonderful. This single is, overall, stronger than her debut.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: B+ — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

SINGLE GRADE: A+

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[Single] AZU’s ‘CHERISH’

SINGLE REVIEW: AZU’s ‘Cherish’

AZU- CherishAZU- Cherish

AZU is a brand new artist who hasn’t yet released her debut album, and is only on her second single. ‘CHERISH’ is her first A-Side, and she currently has two singles total released. She’s a cute girl and I expect her music to be pretty decent. I’m guessing we’ll end up with some pop with the occasional dance number or ballad thrown in, and I’m hoping that she’ll have a nice voice. If not, this review probably won’t see the light of day… So here we are with AZU’s debut single ‘CHERISH’.

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The A-Side of AZU’s debut single is the mid/up tempo CHERISH. Interestingly enough, her voice kind of reminds me of Koda Kumi in a lot of ways. She kind of has Kumi’s sort of soulful sound, almost rough, but in a higher pitch. The song is composed of percussion and pop beats which blend well with AZU’s pleasing vocals. I’m glad that her voice is as good as it is, because I was afraid I’d be stuck with another only-average vocalist, but I was really impressed with her controlled tone and beautiful sound. So vocals were good, and I can say that the music was also really good. The chorus featured some really cool brass music that added flavor to the song. The song had one problem which was that I occasionally felt that the music and vocals weren’t connecting very well. I barely even noticed it until I was looking.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

The first of two B-Sides is the very pop-ish SUMMER BREEZE. The vocal performance in this song is actually stronger than the previous, and I think that AZU really excells, unlike Koda Kumi, in mid tempo pop. Koda Kumi’s voice, for me, is usually too deep to pull off pop, but this girl’s voice is more versatile in that sense. This is probably mostly due to the fact that AZU’s voice is higher. The music for this song is fairly simple, but I think it’s effective for its purpose. This song is assuredly a normal pop song, but nonetheless it is really well done. I don’t know if AZU writes any of her lyrics or music, but at least I know she’s talented. I really liked some of the effects used on the vocals because they added a unique effect that made the song stand out for me.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: B+ — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

The third and final track on the CHERISH single is the much slower and more heartfelt VIOLIN. The the music of this song is composed of quiet piano and gentle percussion that set a mature and more soulful atmosphere. I can hear a bit of Koda Kumi in all of these songs, and this is no exception. When AZU holds notes, she does the exact same fluttery thing that Kumi does, which is good. Although I don’t want her to be just like Kumi, since that would make her incredibly… err… not special, I think that the similarities are inevitably helpingher grow on me. Vocally this song is gorgeous, and AZU’s high notes just make me smile. This song is well composed, and combined with my natural tendancy towards ballads, is easily my favorite song off the single. Everything about it just works, and I’m really enjoying it.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

SINGLE GRADE: A

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[Single] misono- Juunin Toiro

SINGLE REVIEW: misono’s ‘Juunin Toiro’

misono- Juunin Toiro

misono is an artist I’ve never been a huge fan of, but I casually listen to some of her music. I graded the first of her ‘rock’ singles, Zasetsu Chiten, and now her latest, Juunin Toiro, is about to drop. I guess it will also be rock influenced, but the cover doesn’t really allude to that. I always haste misleading covers. Well anyway, here we go. misono’s latest single ‘Juuin Toiro’.

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So the song starts off with percussion and guitar like expected, but I didn’t care for it because of how awkward it felt. Juunin Toiro‘s composition is pretty bland. misono’s entry vocals were shaky, but I expected them to get better around the chorus. They weren’t really bad, but they were kind of boring and I was just waiting for the next part of the song to arrive. I wish it hadn’t. The chorus is absolutely awful and her vocals only get more unpleasant. Not only is the song basically a big pile of the same thing over and over again with no interesting factors what so ever, but the vocals in the chorus are really bad. I don’t really understand what she was thinking when she made this. I don’t know how you couldn’t tell that this is gross sounding. Sorry misono, I don’t know what’s going through your head. Her vocals are just all over the place and it seriously ruins the song.

Vocal Grade: F+ — Musical Grade: D — Consisntency Grade: B+

Overall Grade: D-

The B-Side, Giza Giza LIFE, is only a little bit better because her vocals are slightly more controlled, but I have to say that it is still ridiculously boring. This song was not interesting at all and did not pull me in. The beginning was extremely repetetive and the composition was bland. I don’t know why this single turned out so awfully, and I can’t imagine her being to proud of it. The chorus is barely any better than the verses, and her vocals are only barely better than the previous track. The music consists of guitar, bass, and percussion, but nothing really stands out. Honestly this song makes me think of something that a brand new experienceless artist would have just to play at clubs before they were even recognized. I’m assuming that her debut was better than this, because I would’ve dropped her.

Vocal Grade: C- — Musical Grade: C — Consistency Grade: B

Overall Grade: C-

SINGLE GRADE: D

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[Album] KinKi Kids’ ‘Phi’

ALBUM REVIEW: KinKi Kids- Phi

KinKi Kids- Phi

So I have a lot of hopes for the KinKi Kid’s latest album being that their last single was so fantastic. This will be my first new album by the KinKi Kids, so I guess it’s an exciting day… I’m really excited to listen, and I hope it measures up to the quality of their recent releases. They used a greek letter for the name, so I’m assuming that it will be fairly unique. I’m hoping for the best… Here we go! KinKi Kids’ latest album ‘Phi’.

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Wow, I am really pleased with the opening track, lOve in the Phi. The song is upbeat and a great way to kick off the album. There is a very apparent tone of sexuality, but I’m glad it’s not really blatant. The song has a heavy beat along with some synth and various other sounds. The duo gives a fantastic vocal performance that perfectly matches the overall feeling of the music and pace; I’m happy. This song is really a great listen. They harmonize well together and everything just falls into place amazingly. Although the KinKi Kids don’t have the best vocals, the way they sing in this song is a lot better than I expected, and I’m really proud. This song is really dancable and fantastically done. It’s a bit more on the serious side compared to the recent releases, but it’s quality is equal if not better.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A+ — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

The second song on the album is one of the B-Sides on their Eien Ni single, Namida, Hitohira. This is a well done song, but not particularly stand out. It’s upbeat as well and features fast paced percussion and some femenine background ‘oooh’ing and ‘ahhh’ing, which makes a nice atmosphere. Musically, the song is not as strong as the previous track, but it still makes a generally enjoyable listen. The vocals are fairly well done, KinKi Kids giving a pretty solid performance with only a few minorly iffy parts. I like the echoy ending, and I generally like the song, although I have to admit it is pretty average sounding. There isn’t a lot unique about it, but it’s a solid album track.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: B+ — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: B+

Following Namida, Hitohira is the slowed down, but not ballad, song snapshot. This song has a slight jazzy feeling to it, and the female vocals blended with those of the KinKi Kids actually work. The KinKi Kids give another good performance though I wasn’t super drawn in by this song. It has a lot of interesting aspects, such as the vocal composition, but I can’t say that it is one of my favorites. It’s above average for sure, but doesn’t reach the level of lOve in the Phi. My favorite part of this song is the musical aspect which features some really engaging and unique sounds that my vocabulary can’t really describe. It kind of gives it a (not sure that this will make sense…) late night city feel, like in a mellow club or something. The album so far is impressively diverse, though I’m still waiting for my attention to be snatched up by something after coming from the first song.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: A — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

Well the introduction music and vocals both reminded me of a folk song for some odd reason. the EDGE of the WORD starts off with really mellow sounds that were composed generally like I would expect a folk song to be composed. The verses continue in that manner, and the chorus picks up a bit. I think the song is unique, and it’s definitely more interesting than the previous two. My only problem was that the song didn’t have a lot of diversity which made it kind of difficult to pay attention. However, the well-composed guitar and above average vocals from the KinKi Kids kept my attention long enough to recognize the good qualities of the song, which are that the build up and chorus. The chorus is assuredly the gem of the song as it is the best performed section without a doubt.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: B+ — Harmonization Grade: A- — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

The beginning of the fifth track instantly pulled me in, which I was very grateful for. The violin and excellent composition of Rhapsody make for a brilliant song. KinKi Kids’ vocals are at their best, and I’m really impressed with the overall quality of the track. The song is beautifully dramatic and features gorgeous. This is easily my favorite song on the album so far, and I’m very happy with it. The KinKi Kids really dish out a heartfelt performance and make the feeling of the song very believable. This is the best vocal performance I’ve heard from them on this album. There is a really pleasant guitar solo in the song towards the mid-end, and it just adds to the dramatic and pleasurable aspect of the song. The song has an interesting concept and is performed very well.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Harmonization Grade: A+ — Consistnecy Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The song takes a giant leap up in tempo for the next track, Kaze no Iro. This is the kind of happy upbeat song that I first heard from the KinKi Kids in BRAND NEW SONG, and although they don’t sound a lot alike, they just have the same type of joyous feeling… I guess. The fast guitar and percussion in this song along with the mostly quiet but occasionally more apparent violin are pretty, and I liked the addition of the brass when the chorus began and when the song became more upbeat. Their vocal performance isn’t incredible and the song as a whole isn’t amazing, but it’s another somewhat average, solid song not unlike Namida, Hitohira.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: A- — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

The album takes an incredibly sexual turn with the appearance of Lose Control. When this song began I was instantly reminded of Koda Kumi’s Candy from her 12 singles collection… It features very arabin/african instruments along with a heavy percussion. This song very blatantly sexual in both the Japanese and English lyrics. I think it’s very unique, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I’m bugged by their vocals to a degree in this song. The normal parts are okay, but neither of their falsetto is very pleasing, and the heavy breathing and sex sounds don’t sound very appealing. I will say that this is one of the better songs on the album because it’s really… interesting to listen to, but their little uh uh uh during the chorus sounded kind of strange. The music is definitely the best part of this songs, though there are moments when I certainly enjoy their vocals.

Vocal Grade: B- — Musical Grade: A+ — Harmonization Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

We once move in a more jazzy direction with the addition of brass instruments in the song that proves this to be the KinKi Kid’s 10th year anniversary, since 1997. I can’t believe they’ve been around so long, but I suppose I can see what to some degree. The KinKi Kids have kind of monotone vocals in this song, but the calm jazzy upbeat nature of the song makes it unique and interesting. The song starts off with some gentle guitar chords and a repetetive trumpet (at least I think it’s a trumpet) piece begins, which lasts until the chorus. The music for this song is unique in the sense that it combines modern beats with classic brass, but I didn’t find it particularly engaging. The song as a whole is well done, but it is little more than average. It kind of reminds me of a detective song in some ways, like something that would play at the beginning of a spy movie. Not too serious, but still mature sounding.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: B+ — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: B

The ninth track, unchanged, continues on in the kind of old fashioned manner that it had been, but is probably, as a whole, more interesting than the previous track. The vocals were again unfortunately monotone, but the upbeat background music was more entertaining. I don’t particularly care for the jazzy element of this album because it’s not really making me stay focused on the album. I’m getting easily distracted. The one thing I really like about this song is the vocals, which were made superb not only by great performances but by excellent harmonization. The two worked incredibly well together and each had their own power notes that impressed me. This song is really relaxing, but it is verging on boring. It’s surely above average, but only just.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A- — Harmonization Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B-

Yet another jazz influenced song, the KinKi Kids’ single from before Eien ni BRAND NEW SONG appears on this album as track ten. This is yet another jazz influenced song, and I have to be honest and say that this album is arranged unfortunately. All the jazz songs are hitting at the same time and I can’t say that they’re keeping my attention very well. BRAND NEW SONG is actually more entertaining than since 1997, as the upbeat and happy nature really saves it from being bland. There are more brass instruments featured in this song, like the others, but because of the diversity between the chorus and verses, it was more interesting to listen to. When the music faded and it was just some childish piano every once in a while, it really reminded me of the music on the Sims when you’re shopping… I guess that’s not bad, I just thought it was funny. The vocals in this song are average, but I guess they’re enjoyable.

Vocal Grade: B — Musical Grade: A — Harmonization Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-/B+

The next song is the ballad-ish yet somehow upbeat Giniro Angou. This song features quick beats but mellow vocals enhanced by female harmonizations. There are some ringing, sort of ambient sounds along with the percussion, and the overall effect is well done. I don’t really understand this monotone vocal trend, but I didn’t really notice in this song until I actually looked for it. Even though there isn’t a lot of variation in their vocals, they match well with the feeling of the song and efficiently convey the emotion that I think they were trying to. All in all, there isn’t really a lot to say about the song. It’s generally well done, but it doesn’t have any outstanding qualities. It appears as thouhg all the amazing songs were placed at the beginning of the album. I don’t know if this is just their way of winding down, but this sure is drug out.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: B+ — Harmonization Grade: A- — Consistency Grade: B+

Overall Grade: B+

The second to last track on the KinKi Kids’ latest album is Noochuundo. Although it’s been a long time coming, it seems that of the new songs, the KinKi Kids saved the best for last. This song’s composition is gorgeous and everything about it from the soft violin, piano, and even jingle bells blend beautifully together. To top it off, the vocal performance by the KinKi Kids is essentially flawless, and every note is well executed and draws you in. I would go as far as to say that this song, if not the best, is in the top two songs of this entire album. The inspirational and uplifting aspect of this song really draws me in and it is incredibly well done. This would have made an amazing single, and I’m quite genuinely impressed with it.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Harmonization Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The exit song of the KinKi Kid’s ten year anniversary album, Phi, is their latest single Eien Ni. This song was the song that really solidified my faith in the KinKi Kids to make good music, and is definitely one of the strongest tracks on the album. This is the only song that I can say fills the role of a classic ballad, as it features almost exclusive piano and wonderfully soft vocals. I loved the song, but KinKi Kid’s vocals were just a bit shaky, and it did detract slightly from the quality of the song. I have to say this is, however, easily the most heartfelt song on the album, which gives it some points in my book. Compared to the first time I listened to this song, I think I actually like it a little bit more because I’ve grown used to the manner in which the KinKi Kids sing. Their vocals sounded much shakier to me when I first listened, but I’m noticing that they sound better now.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A- — Harmonization Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

———

Although the flow of this song wasn’t as good as it could of been in the sense that they could have arranged the songs better and spread out the fantastic songs better, but generally it was a fairly strong album. I have to say that there were so many songs that were just average that the album was partially me sitting and waiting to be wowed. I don’t know why they arranged it as they did, but I guess it worked out in the end.

ALBUM GRADE: A-/B+

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