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Music Saved My Life

I haven’t done a music review in a long time and lots of hot albums have been dropping in stores. So here goes:

Kanye West – Late Orchestration: 3.5 of 5 stars

It’s no surprise that I am a big fan of Kanye, but let’s face it – he was a producer before he was ever a rapper. I saw an interview with him on MTV promoting his Late Registration album and he was explaining the inspiration for some of the lyrics in the song “Gold Digger.” He was rapping to the camera and had to go back a few times, smiling nervously. When he gets it, he gets it. His flow is good and he has a certain Chicago twang to his voice that makes it unique. I would say in terms of ennunciation, he’s up there with Em and S Dot, however he still has a ways to go. The story behind this album, and it’s witty title, is he invited a bunch of his closest friends to a music hall for a private concert. You can tell this is a live recording, not only from the audience feedback, but from the rawness of it all. It’s minimally produced. It has all of your favorite Late Registration tracks, except this time backed by, you guessed it, an orchestra. What’s with black street artists and the white string orchestra? C’mon, I’m not the first to wonder this!

Dashboard Confessional – Dusk and Summer – 4 of 5 stars

Last Thursday, I had some friends over for a dinner party. At the end, everyone left except two stragglers, Nate and Kelly. We ended up watching this MTV special in Aspen (?, I know it was some ski resort) where a bunch of bands performed for little kiddies in their beanies. Dashboard came up and I was surprised because I haven’t heard from these guys for a while. Actually, I take that back. Ted and I saw them at Weenie Roast. Anyway, other than that, they have been pretty quiet. What have they been up to? Well, duh! Of course they were working on a new album. What can you expect? Well you can expect the same old Dashboard. Their signature sound is still very much alive, or should I say dead (emo joke). This is not a knock against them, though. The album really works well. I must say I have yet to find a “hit single” in there, but payola always has a way of finding ones for me. I think what happened next at the MTV concert really says it best about this album. The lead singer was trying to pump up the crowd and he said “C’mon guys. We haven’t heard any rock n’ roll here. So how about it? Get your hands in the air, let’s ROCK AND ROLL!” Then they proceeded to play one of their depressing, make you want to end your life, songs. This album is definitely, at least in my opinion, darker than “A Mark, A Man, A Mission, A Scar.”

Lostprohpets – Liberation Transmission – 3.5 of 5 stars

You all probably remember Lostprophets from their hit “Last Train Home” from the album “Start Something.” The boys from the capital of Wales are back with their third album. They really have defined their sound now, not jumping all over the place like before. Their single “Rooftops” is really catchy. The sound is hard but very manageble and the singer does really sing rather than rap, but it’s a close call. That’s all I can say. I’d recommend picking up this album and leaving it in your car. It’ll cut and drive in half, promise.

AFI – Decemberunderground: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? I love this band. I’ve always listened to their music and always enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I saw them live at Weenie Roast did I really “get” them. They blew all the live performances away, save for the Chili Peppers. The new album is classic AFI with very catchy choruses and rifts. The lead singer my scare some (Steph) but never fear. He means no harm. Give AFI a(nother) chance. Soon you’ll be throwing the fists in the air and chanting the new rock anthem.

Plain White T’s – All That We Needed: 4 of 5 stars

The AOL Online Exclusive “New Rock First” station on XM is quickly becoming my favorite preset. I can only listen to it at work because as the name suggests, it’s online only. Anyway, they have all the coolest new music and it’s a great way to preview the next rock hits before they really make the Clear Channel rounds. Anyway, when I heard the acoustic song “Hey Deliah”, I knew I had to make a note of the band in my Google notes widget. I was pleasantly surprised to find the rest of the album very listenable and in fact, quite good. I am trying to figure out who to compare them to. Amazon describes them as a pop rock band along the lines of Sugarcult, Fall Out Boy, and Simple Plan. I guess I’d agree. Check them out.

Hard-Fi – Stars of CCTV: 4 of 5 stars

The most awaited band of the KJEE Summer Roundup II was surprisingly, the least famous. They also went first, which I should have figured, but by the time we got there oh so fashionably (1 hour) late, their set was already over. Everyone I talked to was disappointed that they missed them and unanimously agreed they were the band everyone was looking forward to. The band from England has a very nice rock sound with good beats. Their hit “Cash Machine” is pretty heavily produced, but only in terms of the little effects. The lead’s voice is unadulterated and quite welcoming. The remind me of a little bit Franz Ferdinand, and a little bit The Killers.

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