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Various artists - Pitch Perfect 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Album Review


After the success of the first 'Pitch Perfect' and, more specifically, the 'Cup' song, the soundtrack for the sequel has a lot to live up to. However, there is a thing as trying to be too clever and here is a perfect example. 

Various Artists - Pitch Perfect 2 Soundtrack Album Review

By trying to cram even more songs into each a cappella mash-up, some tracks just don't work without the visual aid of the movie and it becomes a race to recognize just what has been used. Two/three lines and it is on to the next song. 'Riff Off' starts off enjoyable, with a cover of 'Thong Song', but then goes through a circle of booty-complimenting tracks at a dizzying speed where it confuses and loses itself. A better example of a mash-up would be The Barden Bella's 'World Championship Finale' as you can clearly hear each tune used throughout.

The song that leads the entire soundtrack - also the lead single - is Jessie J's 'Flashlight' written by Sam Smith and Sia. By far the most memorable, it is a highlight to the album and is what will keep people coming back to listen to it. An inspirational ballad, it is by far one of Jessie J's best singles, but as the success of Anna Kendrick and 'Cups' showed, a big star isn't always needed to get radio play time. There is also a surprise performance from Snoop Dogg and Anna Kendrick, which is a nice way to break up the a cappella sound of the album. The other original track is 'Crazy Youngsters' performed by Ester Dean, which adds a modern and more 'pop' sound to the soundtrack. These 3 tracks are undeniably stand-out numbers in an otherwise very predictable album. 

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Various Artists - Walls Have Ears: 21 Years Of Wall Of Sound Album Review


Label retrospectives are not without a degree of risk: it's easy for compilers to fall into the self-indulgent trap of looking after your pet projects, with the line by extension between vanity exercise and faithful cataloguing dangerously a thin one.

Various artists - Walls Have Ears: 21 Years Of Wall Of Sound Album Review

The guys at Wall of Sound will probably feel that they're worth it. Twenty years after their first and fondly remembered compilation 'Give 'Em Enough Dope', they're back to celebrate their 21st in business with a two disk, thirty-odd song opus, the idea to map the imprint's evolution from big beat boutique to its later, more cosmopolitan artist roster.

They've got the sense to start with two stone cold killers as well; it's been donkey's years since we heard the Propellerheads' 'Take California' or Royksopp's 'Poor Leno', but we're happy to report that both are still headphone gold. There are also selections from the respective acts at their peak, which is less than can be said, however, for some of the other choices strewn across the first disk. The problem here isn't a lack of the quality in the contributors - we've got stuff from the likes of Zoot Woman, The Bees and Les Rythmes Digitales - but they've all produced better material than that featured here, a point best illustrated via The Bees on the jazzy, underwhelming scat of 'A Minha Menina'.

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Various Artists - Magic Bus: 3CDs Of Huge Hits From The Hippie Trail Album Review


Well, it does exactly what it says on the box. The 57 tracks on this 'Magic Bus' compilation run from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, but, with remarkable perspicacity, the compiler has mixed them up very cleverly. 

Magic Bus: 3CDs Of Huge Hits From The Hippie Trail Album Review

The CDs are called 'Turn On', 'Tune In' and 'Drop Out' and the songs on each one reflect, more or less, their monikers. Thus, on CD1 Scott McKenzie rubs shoulders with Barry McGuire, CD2 is full of singer-songwriters; Dylan, Cat Stevens and the like; whilst CD3 rocks it up with STEPPENWOLF and Cream.

What this collection is selling is nostalgia and it does it very, very well. Anyone who grew up through the years in question will remember every one of these songs and probably sing along with them too. It has to be said that there are two major omissions though, there is nothing by either The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Down to licensing presumably. That said, this is an absolutely classic collection that has been selected with extreme care and, dare it be said, love.  

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees 2015

Various Artists - Photo's of a host of rock and roll stars as they attended the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees 2015 ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, United States - Saturday 18th April 2015

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Various Artists - Kitsune New Faces 2 Album Review


The deal hasn't changed: the world's best known couture indie label is still releasing everything from pop to polo shirts, having unearthed the likes of Years & Years, TDCC, Citizens! and, most recently, BeatauCue as they mix style with Gallic substance.

Various Artists - Kitsune New Faces 2 Album Review

'New Faces 2' is one of their periodic compilations which has a says-it-on-the-tin vibe: 14 tracks (plus a bonus extra on the CD) all released by acts which should - unless you've been hanging out in all the right Shoreditch bars - be new to you. By way of setting expectations, if their previous collections were anything to go by, they confirmed that label supremo Gildas Loaëc is a man with a musical vision that sits somewhere between Europhile gloss and the preppy, Ivy League jangle of American outfits like Vampire Weekend and, perhaps less obviously, 'Kids'-era MGMT.

If that sounds like an odd combination, much of 'New Faces' is determined by these slightly narrow operating parameters and, by extension, a frisson of orthodoxy. Opener 'One Wing' by New Yorkers Beau is a sixties-indebted torch song in the mould of Lucius, whilst Suisfine's 'Heat' is glorious slacker rock, but, largely, the texture of most of the songs here is pristine and synthetic. This doesn't mean that, in series tradition, the odd gem isn't unfurled: RIVRS' 'Last love' is naked, almost prone R&B, with singer Charlotte delivering the band's dark pop in crystalline words; Danglo's 'Catch My Eye' is as sludgy as the Thames by which it was made; whilst Jai Wolf's mix of Mocki's 'Weekend' re-frames its New Jack feel with beeps and bleeps, giving it the authentic je né sais quoi of the week's best two days.

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Various Artists - House Couture mixed by Terence:Terry Album Review


Anyone can do mixtape, right? All sounds so easy: a few audio files, your free trial software, combine it with the sweet vibes only your bedroom can produce and, hey presto, suddenly you're Paul Oakenfold. Well, maybe, but not quite. Those who've ever tried to cross-fade Little Mix into Block Rockin' Beats will tell you that the DJ's art is actually rooted in something far more complex than just manipulating software. Even though some of the tactile skills so fondly cherished by the first generations of booth maestros are no longer needed, the things that can't be taught (feel, progression, when to hit the accelerator) remain the difference between the people at the top of their profession and the bozos with Christmas tree lights forever playing wedding receptions.

Various Artists - House Couture mixed by Terence:Terry Album Review

Terence:Terry is of the old school, vinyl era, caught up in the rush of the first Parisian raves and riding the acid house wave between his home city and London ever since, gathering a reputation for traversing genres whilst ducking the obvious plays. Now running his own fashion press agency and part of the underground furniture as an artist and producer, he set up his own label La Vie En Rose in 2012, and it's from his own impressive stable of ingénues that roughly a third of this mix is crafted.

Despite his pedigree, the project suffers initially from some of the same unpredictable dynamics of how a set can be consumed live: without familiarity (much of his own label output featured here is as yet unreleased) the crowd need to go with their instincts. This means that for the first 40 minutes plus, up for it punters are left with nothing much to get excited about. Effortlessly uniform and refined, up until the hazy warmth and Balearic washes of Carlos Sanchez's 'Touch Wood', it's hard to tell whether TT is trying too hard or not enough, before he begins to pull some familiar rabbits out of his chapeau. Suddenly, what had been more home than club is wickedly inverted, The Mole's 'MMD' acid house tinged remix of Gary Todd's '24 Hour Party Sausage' taking us to places weird and wonderful, whilst Chicago veteran Mickey Oliver's ancient gem 'Anticipate' revives Speak & Spell voice processing and bonkers DIY minimalism to great effect.

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Various Artists - BBC Radio 2 Sounds Of The 80s: Unique Covers Of Classic Hits Album Review


It's nearly Christmas, that time of year when the music industry deems it acceptable to churn out a barrage of unlistenable dross in the name of charity or some other self-deprecating cause. Where normally serious musicians don paper hats and plastic kazoos as if to say, "We're just like you, really", novelty records clog up the airwaves, TV talent show winners adorn every high street record shop window, and Bono sings that same line AGAIN as Geldof remakes his only memorable song for the umpteenth time. There's a reason I don't listen to what constitutes "new music" in December. Several, and in fact most of them, are listed above. Which brings me onto this execrable collection.

Various Artists - BBC Radio 2 Sounds Of The 80s: Unique Covers Of Classic Hits

The inevitable covers compilation. Not content with just the Radio One endorsed Live Lounge album it seems, the BBC's sister station Radio Two has also got in on the act. It's inspired by Sara Cox's 'Sounds Of The 80s' show which, in fairness, does what it says on the tin and for the most part, does the job very well. Unfortunately, this collection of awfulness does anything but. It promises "unique covers of classic hits" on the sleeve, and it's difficult to argue with that statement if one's definition of unique reads lifeless, unimaginative, and lacking in any spark or vigour whatsoever. It's hard to envisage what went on in the meeting where such an uninspired concoction of musical inadequacy emanated from. Why anyone would consider Ed Sheeran butchering Bruce Springsteen's 'Atlantic City' or Boyzone turning The Waterboys' 'Whole Of The Moon' into a score piece for a death scene on 'Downton Abbey ' as a good idea, is beyond me. Yet that's exactly what's seemingly happened.

Inconceivably, things get worse. Dido warbles incoherently all over Bronski Beat's 'Smalltown Boy', Olly Murs turns Earth Wind & Fire's 'Let's Groove' into a stag night karaoke while even the normally reliable Kylie tries her hand at being all serious and grown-up on Kim Carnes' 'Bette Davis Eyes' only to fail miserably. Elsewhere, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott win the award for "Most Pointless Cover Of A Cover" with their take on The Housemartins' version of The Isley Brothers' 'Caravan Of Love'. Meanwhile, Birdy, Katie Melua and Gabrielle Aplin out lickle-ickle-girl each other like a trio of Bonnie Langfords in 1970s period drama 'Just William', turning Madonna's 'Lucky Star', Black's 'Wonderful Life' and Genesis' 'That's All' into steaming piles of unrecognisable tawdriness.

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Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Legends Album Review


'Now That's What I Call...' have finally jumped on the Christmas bandwagon by releasing a collection of compilations including 'Legends', '90s' and 'Party'. This one in question is one that is targeting the older generation, and is a refreshingly nostalgic look back at some of the old classics.

Various Artists - Now That's What I Call Legends Album Review

So what is actually on 'Now That's What I Call Legends'? Well, there are a few pleasant surprises. It seems strange to think of the likes of Oasis, Take That, Bon Jovi and Kylie Minogue as 'Legends'. These are all artists that are either only just at the end of their career or are still going strong today.

One great thing about this album is that while you can be listening to 'Bad Medicine' by Bon Jovi, the next minute you're flipping to 'Jolene' by Dolly Parton. There is such a wide variety of pop music on this album, which is great for both the kids - who'll turn around and say, "I actually like this dad" - and the parents - who can hear it and say, "Oh well, it's not just noise after all."

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Various Artists - BBC Radio 1's the Nixtape Album Review


For our American readers, no, that's not a typo. 'The Nixtape' is a regular feature on BBC Radio 1's popular 'Breakfast Show'; a weekly segment every Friday morning where an hour of music, usually consisting of classics and barely-dated hits from the 90s and earlier 00s, are played. 'BBC Radio 1's the Nixtape' is split into two discs, each with a different style. The first is a rap/hip-hop compilation, with the second being more of a club/techno/house mix. While it's all the same 'Nixtape', the styles are divergent enough to demand a separate look at each.

Various Artists - BBC Radio 1's the Nixtape Album Review

The first half of the 'Nixtape' kicks off with some vintage swag in TLC's 'Creep' and Ashanti's 'Only U', starting the first CD squarely into classic 90s hip hop, before quickly launching into more conventional rap beats like A$AP Mob's 'Trillmatic' and the enjoyably hilarious 'Shake Ya Ass' by Mystikal, all of which ooze with vintage. The second portion of the album lands the big hits of the last two decades, featuring Sean Paul's 'Get Busy', Snoop Dogg's 'Beautiful', Busta Rhymes' 'Thank You' and Notorious B.I.G's 'Mo' Money, Mo' Problems', encompassing some of the most profound hip-hop in music history. It wouldn't have been a hip-hop album without Nelly's 'Hot in Here' or 'The Way You Move' by Outkast, but the latter half of the album had fewer memorable beats. 'Welcome to Jamrock' by Damian Marley and 'Nobody to Love' by Sigma stand out amidst a number of old school rap tracks, but few of the rest stood out as being particularly memorable after the repeated punches of the big hitters made their way.

The 'Nixtape''s electronic second half isn't bad, though it's something that's going to appeal more to die-hard fans than casual listeners. There aren't quite the same identifiable groups of music within disc 2, though there are equally a few stand-out acts scattered throughout. The soothing 'Rather Be' by Clean Bandit, the ivory-tingling 'I Wanna Feel' by second SecondCity, and an infusion of pop in 'Take Care' by Rihanna and Drake prompt all but the most lethargic listener to get on their feet and move. Where the first half of the 'Nixtape' had variety, the second half runs together completely. Perhaps this is an appealing factor for fans of club music, and maybe this would make the second half of the 'Nixtape' perfect for your next dance party, but it can be difficult to stay interested in an album when the songs begin to run together so cleanly.

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Various Artists - Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5: Smokin' (Signed Vs Unsigned) Album Review


It is rare that we see record labels actually bother to put any effort at all into their compilations and samplers these days. Most of the time, labels will scrape together the bare minimum number of tunes by a couple of their flagship acts backed by six to ten cuts from their less well-known artists and chuck it up on their website with little to no fanfare or care for the quality of the product being sold. This is not so for Xtra Mile, the label that brought you Reuben and continues to back the incredible rise of Frank Turner. 'Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5' delivers a whopping 42 tracks for a fiver. That's right: whatever your taste in punk, indie or folk might be, with such a high volume of work on show here, you are bound to find something new to get into for the price of a couple of pints. Winner.

Xtra Mile High Club Volume 5: Smokin' (Signed Vs Unsigned) Album Review

This mammoth compilation kicks off with Against Me! at their thrilling, roaring best with 'Talking Transgender Dysphoria Blues'; a song packed to the gills with bite and venom from what is probably the most important punk album of the last ten years. It is a tough act to follow, but the quality on disc one is incredibly high.

You get more rock as Cheap Girls take on a Drive-By Truckers kind of sound on their contribution and recent signing 'Billy the Kid' turns in; an absolute emo gem. Arguably, the two most high profile acts on disc one also bring the guitars with Jamie Lenman putting in a grotesquely entertaining and terrifyingly heavy turn in the form of 'Shower of Scorn' from his 'Muscle Memory' album and Frank Turner slips back into a hardcore sound he has not experimented with since the end of 'Million Dead' on Mongol Horde's nautical 'Blistering Blue Barnacles'.

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Various Artists - The Giver: Music Collection Album Review


As someone who's long been a fan of the book, to see 'The Giver' movie finally come to fruition has been quite the nostalgic trip. Headed and ended by OneRepublic and featuring rising stars such as Tori Kelly ('Silent'), Capital Cities ('One Minute More') and other solid up-and-comers in the music industry, 'The Giver: Music Collection' has a perfect mix of superstar power and the flair of still-indie but progressively more mainstream acts to inspire confidence in its pedigree. But is that confidence warranted?

The Giver: OST Music Collection Album Review

One Republic's first track 'Ordinary Human' has a pleasant synthetic backing and uplifting, optimistic lyrics that, with a certain "sci-fi" vibe, is reminiscent of Muse combined with the nouveau-disco feel common to contemporary popular music. 'One Minute More' plants the album more firmly in the territory of contemporary pop-rock with a light, airy and upbeat tone alongside, again, positive lyrics, and some interesting mid-paced synth. From there we go into the only female vocals on the album with Tori Kelly's 'Silent', which is a competent acoustic guitar song with a country twang. Where 'Silent' takes that distinct country flavor, 'Feel What's Good' by Jake Bugg brings in a dash of classic rock in some electric guitar. It's not strictly acoustic, of course, but it maintains a certain soulful element to its lyrics that resembles that of more acoustic and instrumental music. Bruno Major's 'Children' is more stripped down, its lyrics taking center-stage over a lightly strumming guitar.

Rixton's 'Whole', oddly enough, sounds more like a OneRepublic song than the actual OneRepublic. The music seems unnecessarily slow to the point of lethargy. However, Rixton give way to album highlight Aloe Blacc's 'Here Today'; the strong vibe of gospel and blues give it a certain dynamism and very inspirational quality. 'Shine My Way' by Sheppard has a lot of the same sound, and its more subdued lyrics carry all the richness that the swinging beat demands. The album departs with two more acoustic style songs - NEEDTOBREATHE's 'Difference' and OneRepublic's closer 'I Lived'. 'Difference' is slow and somber throughout, invoking the same vibe that made 'Children' work, while 'I Lived' picks up the pace around the time it gets to the bridge.

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Various Artists - Pepsi Beats Of The Beautiful Game Album Review


It makes absolute logical sense for any company to want to be affiliated with the biggest events in the world, which the football World Cup unarguably is. But what to do when your biggest rival is a corporate partner of said tournament? In this case, the answer is a compilation record.

Various Artists - Pepsi Beats Of The Beautiful Game Album Review

Whilst a couple of months may already have elapsed since the World Cup ended, this does afford us the ability to review this album using a host of clichés and tournament-inspired analogies.  Santigold's 'Kicking Down Doors' signals the start of play with a pounding dub beat on a track that fails to take off. The arrival of a collaboration between Rita Ora and Calvin Harris - 'I Will Never Let You Down' - is like Spain making an appearance, but the resulting club number is as disappointing as the showing from the former champions. The decision to allow Janelle Monae to give Bowie's 'Heroes' an urban makeover gets a red card, but Don Omar adds the correct sort of bite to proceedings with a carnival-enthused 'Pura Vida'.  

The second half begins with a substitution to the likeable quirky pop of 'Crescendo' by Jetta, before Kelly Rowland takes centre stage. Unfortunately, 'The Game' is a tuneless effort that falls well beneath the high standard of the output she has previously been involved with and leaves us needing a hero as we enter the latter stages of play. It would be too much now for the result of the album to be saved, but like a late consolation, it doesn't mean you can't put positives into the outcome. It isn't forthcoming though, with the remainder playing out a drab affair lacking impact and passion. Likening this to the England team's performance seems too obvious, but given the lack of expectation in the first instance, is actually quite appropriate.

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Various Artists - Kitsune America 3 Album Review


Given their heritage, it would be easy to assume that Gallic fashion house Kitsuné would be "Into" the sort of soul-sucking EDM you'd associate with catwalks: via this series and, more frequently, its Europhile sister imprint, they've, however, unearthed more than their fair share of pop mavericks from around the globe over the years.

Various Artists - Kitsune America 3 Album Review

A compilation itself is like a box of chocolates of course, but in the third instalment of their  American version, 'Kitsune America 3', much of the good flavours seems to have gone. On opener 'Karma', NYC-based duo Beau bring something of a spaghetti western touch to their sweet tale of wished-for revenge, sounding not unlike their neighbours Lucius, whilst Sunni Colon's auto-tuned harmonies on the otherwise uneventful soul balladry of '1000 Roses' narrowly help to avoid the feeling it was salvaged from the talent show dustbin.  

At times, you feel that in their obvious haste for artist diversity the compilers have fallen into the trap of focussing on the sound and not the songs, the result being a series of tussles with generics as opposed to fresh talent which is also doing new things. This slip up means that Navvi's plodding closer 'Speak' is more sleep inducing that the dream pop it aims to be and Misun's girl-band chirping on 'Eli Eli' grates. But the biggest turn-off comes via Brenmar's 'Medusa', a more by-the-numbers rip off of The Weeknd you're less likely to clock from San Francisco to Miami.

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Various Artists - Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One Album Review


Producers Jesse Lauter and Sean O'Brien's pet project for ATO Records, 'Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One', is a curious proposition. A cut above the usual covers compilation, it's an ambitious attempt to reclaim lost gems from Dylan's much maligned career low point. While many listeners may not realise it, the eighties were also a prolific period for Dylan. Cherry-picking material from his eight studio albums released in just over a decade is an interesting challenge for the likes of the Hold Steady's Craig Finn and Blitzen Trapper. But, ultimately, the album doesn't elevate itself beyond a curio for the most dedicated Dylan fan.

Various Artists - Bob Dylan In The Eighties: Volume One Album Review

The good news is that, for the most part, the project does succeed in breathing new life into songs long since neglected by Bob. Stripped of the fashionable production elements of the time, there is indeed hidden beauty to the updated and diverse performances here. The song choices are also bold. Not content with simply choosing better respected compositions,there's a feeling that the artists have really tried to push themselves. For example, many would have put their money on 'Oh Mercy''s 'Most Of The Time' making an appearance, far fewer would have hoped for 'Under The Red Sky''s 'Wiggle, Wiggle'. Surprisingly, only the latter is attempted here. Yet it doesn't feel like an academic exercise to rescue these songs from obscurity, there's a real affection for the material and many of the performances warrant multiple listens.

The bad news is that, despite an impressive selection of artists contributing, the range of musical genres covered does provide for some really awkward moments. For example, I'm pretty sure that we didn't really need a dub reggae version of 'Brownsville Girl'. There's nothing that detracts from the source material, but something a little more cohesive may have been more compelling as a record. When the songs really are stripped back to their bare bones, they work far better - perhaps because the focus shifts from musical reinvention to Dylan's lyrics. That's where the real joy is here, because the eighties production and flat delivery on records like 'Down In The Groove' really did mask some classic writing from Bob.

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Various Artists - College Radio Day The Album Volume 2 Album Review


On their 1985 minor hit 'Left of the Dial', The Replacements sang their ode to college radio, America's best solution to showcasing all the most interesting up and coming bands to all the coolest people. 'College Radio Day the Album Volume 2' demonstrates that this is an American tradition which is still in rude health.

College Radio Day Volume 2 Album Review

The curators of 'College Radio Day' stress that this is an album put together with care by the college radio community for the college radio community, and profits from the sale of this collection get pumped back into college radio. As a result, they have got some fairly big names in to contribute music. You get the southern rock of My Morning Jacket, you get a live version of Passenger's inescapable and insipid 'Let Her Go' and Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam's punk idealist side project RNDM even take a turn, as do the brilliantly named The Front Bottoms.

One of the strengths of 'College Radio Day' is its diversity. This is a compilation with little regard for genre boundaries, embracing everything from the Alice In Chains grunge revival of Killed the Fixtion to the hip hop stylings of Feli Fame. As a result, it would be difficult for anyone to enjoy absolutely everything on offer here but there is indeed something for everyone.

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