DJ Khaled – Major Key: Album Review

DJ Khaled is a hugely famous music producer and has been for a number of years but in the past 12 months he has soared to absolute superstardom thanks to his motivational outlook on life, something which he publishes all over Snapchat every single day. His following has become larger than ever and it’s allowed for him to become a regular feature in the public eye, hence why the feature list and thus anticipation of this album is so impressive. With some of the biggest names rap has to offer in modern terms, such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J Cole on here, as well as some returning legends of the game such as Nas and Busta Rhymes, this album has been spoke about for a long time to see how Khaled would approach this incredible list of talent. I’m super excited for this album so let’s get straight into it.

I Got The Keys (feat. Jay Z & Future) – 8.5/10
Absolutely filthy beat on this one, it is an incredible tone setter to what many expect to be a high octane hype album. This is helped by the King of modern day hype Future putting his usual energy on the track not only in his verse but in that infectious hook. The beat itself is bizarre but has real banger potential in its approach and I love it. Jay Z really shows up here, it’s a nice change because in recent times he’s put a couple of half hearted attempts into his verses but his first verse on here is fantastic. His second verse is a bit stagnated and contains lyrics of the same ilk we’ve heard many a time from Jay Z involving the bragging element of being married to Beyoncé. I really like the DJ Khaled catchphrases being implemented into the song too such as “major cloth talk” or this element of having “the keys to success”. In summary, it’s a huge hype track with a great beat, if this is the level we are getting throughout the album then we are in for a treat. The features would suggest this wave is going to continue.

For Free (feat. Drake) – 6.5/10
Cool, smooth jam from Khaled who tries his best to drown it out with his own voice which is very annoying but the beat is quite cool so I’ll let him off. When Drake starts he oozes that typical arrogance and swagger rapping about how great he is and mainly what he’s like sexually. The song does drain on me a bit as it just seems to have no sign of transition at all, just the same old thing from start to finish. The boring sex fuelled lyrics don’t help this either, Drake is better than this, he’s a very very good lyricist he doesn’t need to resort to this dull and self indulgent style of rapping. It is a relief that this song is only two verses given the irritant that is Drake’s lyrics but obviously he flows well and the beat is great so it’s a dilemma as to how to rate this song. It is a cool track but the lyrics are so cringeworthy I can’t rate it as a classic at all.

Nas Album Done (feat. Nas) – 10/10
This song was always going to be huge let’s be honest. Having a top 5 all time MC on a song is a fairly big pull to a track especially when he’s appearing to make a triumphant return. What Nas provides us on this song is not only the best verse on this album, but the best verse I’ve heard in over a year, I haven’t heard someone destroy the beat like Nas does here since Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly album. Racial inequality, war and conflict, as always Nas isn’t afraid of the big issues and will turn them into verses of pure fire, what a rapper. Verses like this made him untouchable, and now he’s back and my word I can’t wait for what’s next. Khaled, thank you so much for offering this to us, it’s truly a blessing to hear a master at work like this. What’s even more incredible about this is that Khaled’s catchphrases are still prominent and the theme remains.

Holy Key (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean & Betty Wright) – 11/10
This is probably the best beat on this album, it’s absolutely red hot and gives Big Sean and King Kendrick a brilliant opportunity to stamp their authority and boy do they deliver. Big Sean has had an absolutely brilliant 18 months with the release of his commercial smash album Dark Sky Paradise and consistently fantastic feature verses and this is no different. He goes off on the beat with his typical swagger and confidence and has a few really memorable lines in there, like the one about knowing he’s on fire because he’s been to hell and back which is a great line. Betty Wright on that chorus makes the song, she has an absolutely stunning vocal range and dominates the track, wow. She offers a gospel aspect with Whitney Houston delivery, it’s brilliant. Then just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, the best in the game shows himself and drops the icing on this delicious cake. Kendrick Lamar starts well and maintains his speed and rhythm but the verse only turns truly memorable when he provides us with that now iconic switch up in his voice and puts energy, passion and a strain to his tones but his flow is just incredible on it. Near impossible to fault this song, will be an anthem for years in my opinion, absolutely phenomenal track.

Jermaine’s Interlude (feat. J Cole) – 9.5/10
EVERYBODY, J COLE IS ALIVE AND HE IS BACK, STAY CALM IF YOU CAN. When I saw the track list I was expecting 30 seconds of smooth Jermaine vocals as a true interlude but no, we have been truly blessed from above with a full song, a full J Cole feature everybody. Call me biased but I’m shook, this song doesn’t have enough superlatives for it, it’s just a magical time to be alive. Why I hear you ask? Because J Cole is on a song, J Cole is alive and kicking. The smooth jazz beat is so cool and fits that chorus and hook perfectly which Cole makes his own. The switch up from singing to rapping as the first verse starts is enough to snap your neck, I felt a genuine whiplash from the explosion of energy Cole provides us. Although I didn’t appreciate the retirement line but I’ll let it slide because I know he’s not done yet. “K-KHALED”. What a song, what a return for Hollywood Cole. This song would be 10/10 if we had 2 verses from Cole but 1 long verse is fine with me for now.

Ima Be Alright (feat. Bryson Tiller & Future) – 7/10
Bryson does his thing on here, his influence is so apparent on this song and his vocals on the hook are just so cool. It matches the beat brilliantly in that faded sway style before Future grabs the track and makes it his own, adding those snares to the beat and picking up the pace with his typically high octane performance and delivery. The first sign of a slow jam style hit on this album in the chorus but it does pick up with the appearance of Future and the snares on the hook. Future’s verse contains his typical energetic bars about alcohol, women and his lavish lifestyle and it works quite well with the track. If I’m honest, Bryson Tiller’s verse isn’t anything special and I much prefer him on the chorus, his delivery just seems a lot crisper there and much more memorable. It is a good song but it drags on a little bit towards the end and hopefully it doesn’t see this album fall off.

Do You Mind (feat. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross) – 6/10
More of a ballad style, really slow piano beat so Khaled’s “we the best music” catchphrases seem a bit out of place. Nicki Minaj comes onto the beat with authority and does a calm and collected verse, nothing special and nothing out of the ordinary but certainly not a flop. Chris Brown is a big part of this song, his R&B harmonies are hugely important to the flow of the track and he doesn’t miss a note in this very sexually driven song. I do also think Jeremih provides a nice change to the vocals and puts on a decent performance albeit very limited. Here’s the puzzling part, what are Future and Rick Ross doing on this song? Like at all? Neither of them suit this style AT ALL and they can be spotted a mile off, they really alter and almost ruin the style of the song. Both of them try to do their usual thing but with a stripped back mellow side note and it just flops massively. The song itself doesn’t blow you away necessarily and brings the whole atmosphere down, there’s not really a stand out feature unfortunately.

Pick These Hoes Apart (feat. Kodak Black, Jeezy & French Montana) – 4/10
This song starts with that underground trap vibe and follows suit with the faint beat with snares covering it. This song will be difficult for me to rate kindly, however, because I despise Kodak Black’s vocals in anything he does, let alone this. It’s like Lil Wayne inhaled about 17 helium balloons and hopped on a verse, tragically bad. The lyrics are stupid as well, typical self obsessed rapper who knows nothing better than sex, yawn. In fact, all of these verses have the yawn factor, nobody really takes over this track which is a shame because I expected a big verse from French Montana here especially given the beat which allowed the opportunity to set alight. Instead, everyone is snoozing on the beat and put half hearted efforts in. For me, the worst song on the whole album, it’s a serious struggle to listen to.

F**k Up The Club (feat. Future, Rick Ross, YG & Yo Gotti) – 7.5/10
The hype track to end all hype tracks, but then again are we really surprised when we see the Future feature? That beat is filthy and I love the work Future does on it, his voice is even more auto tuned than usual and has that hype bounce to it. We then move into Rick Ross’ verse which is okay, nothing more and nothing less. There are a few inaccuracies in his verse such as how he’s “never stumbled” in terms of his discography and his rap career which isn’t strictly true. There has been quite a few occasions where Rozay has been a bit weak compared to other rappers, he’s extremely hit and miss in that regard. In the end you are quite glad that YG’s verse comes in due to his very impressive year so far and there’s an intrigue as to what he has for us. It’s safe to say he delivers here with a stellar verse and without a doubt the best verse on this song. Great flow and energy which links with the track perfectly. Yo Gotti is dull on his verse and just doesn’t speed up at all, it’s a relief he has a short verse. Good song which would’ve been a great song if Yo Gotti and Rick Ross showed up a bit more. Either way it’s a colossal turn up track.

Work For It (feat. Big Sean, Gucci Mane & 2 Chainz) – 6/10
After Big Sean’s huge showing on Holy Key I was full of high hopes for this one, not to mention the features of fellow G.O.O.D Music artists Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz. Metro Boomin being on this beat is also cool but in reality it’s quite an understated instrumental and places more emphasis on the howls and whistles in the background, therefore giving the rappers more of a platform to take over. Big Sean does his thing again and I really like his piece on the hook, what I don’t like is Gucci Mane’s verse, at all. I understand he’s a relevant name now that he’s been released from prison and he has some big hits but his recent showings on features have been really poor and this one is no different. 2 Chainz really isn’t much better but let’s be honest here, when has he ever been the dominant rapper on a song? He does seem like more of an added bonus for a hype track rather than a world class MC. Let me put it this way, if everyone on this track rapped like Big Sean does, the rating would be much higher but that twinned with a fairly understated and far from memorable beat/hook means this song won’t be getting rave reviews any time soon.

Don’t Ever Play Yourself (feat. Jadakiss, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes & Kent Jones) – 8.5/10
The feature listing on this song is impressive to say the least. Old school classic rappers and producers all coming together on a Khaled anthem to hopefully provide us with some new fire. It’s a seriously hard beat I love the suiting of it with the era of prominence for all of these artists so it was the perfect chance for them all to roll back the years. They sure do that, it’s hard to think of any of the rappers who actually flop on this one, Jadakiss is hard at the start and sets it up perfectly for everyone else. The New York references are a big aspect of this song, particularly the mentioning of Odell Beckham, the American Footballer who has gained huge media attention in the past couple of years and I think it’s quite cool to refer back to those local areas. Busta Rhymes has such an aggressive and powerful tone to his voice and so when he’s really spitting on a beat, it sounds amazing. So yes, it sounds amazing and so does this song, a great throwback for old school hip hop fans to enjoy with a real east coast grimey beat behind it.

Tourist (feat. Travis Scott & Lil Wayne) – 7/10
A very odd pairing on paper it’s full of intrigue and something which could either go horribly wrong or work an absolute treat. Either way, pairing Travis Scott with Lil Wayne was a huge move from Khaled and I respect him for that. I absolutely love Travis Scott, I always have and I always will and this feature is strong from him, I think his infamous “straight up” catchphrase really owns this beat along with his auto tuned rap/singing vocal which alters speed to maximum effect. The hook is catchy and has the sound of a classic Travis anthem. So far so good, we just need to hear Wayne now and see if he can show us his best side. Lil Wayne is one of the most hit and miss feature rappers there is, he can either school every single rapper going or be an absolute joke, to the extent of becoming a meme. This song, however, is a decent feature, it’s not a very long feature but it’s decent nonetheless. I still think that both have a bit more to give on this track even though they both supply good features but there does just feel like there’s something missing from the song and I’m not sure what. Either way it’s a decent track and could be a lot worse.

Forgive Me Father (feat. Wiz Khalifa, Meghan Trainor & Wale) – 5.5/10
Scrap what I said about the last song, this is the weirdest combination of features I’ve ever seen. I’m fairly confident that Meghan Trainor and Wale didn’t know who each other were before recording this song and you can sort of tell in the flow of the song. It all sounds a bit stop/start from verse to chorus, almost as if there is two different songs playing. The chorus is cool though and Meghan Trainor provides a good vocal on it. I am absolutely shocked to report to you also that Wiz Khalifa does actually offer up a really good verse, it has great pace on it at the start but when he starts to sing its god awful and borderline ruins all his good work at the beginning of the verse. It also completely ruins the flow and the momentum of the song it all just seems so pointless. Wale’s feature is quite good in fairness, at least he doesn’t try and sing… However, he overlaps with Meghan Trainor at the end of his verse and it really bugs me because it just sounds so shoddy. This is a rollercoaster of hit and miss unfortunately as the good aspects are really good, it’s just a shame that the bad ones are really really bad.

Progress – 3/10
Why is this even here? The only song on the whole album with no features and you can tell the lacking of quality. I’m not meaning to disrespect Khaled here because I’m aware he’s a very talented producer but I’m genuinely baffled as to why he’s decided to randomly throw a dancehall anthem at the end, and it’s not even a decent dancehall hit either. If it was on One Dance’s level I would understand but this is just dreary from start to finish. A yawn fest to end the album which is a shame really.

Overall – 7.5/10
If this album followed the suit of the first half, it’s comfortably album of the year. From track 1-6 it sounds like a compilation album of the year’s best tracks (apart from For Free obviously) and I really like that. Any album which features Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Jay Z and J Cole within that close a time period is going to be banging and it is, right up until the second half, where we have a colossal nose dive. There are good songs in that second half, such as Tourist and the great Don’t Ever Play Yourself but there’s also some diabolical songs which I need to erase from my memory. Overall I want to thank DJ Khaled for bringing all of these exceptional artists together, but I also feel there was a lot of wasted potential on songs in the second half which could have made this record an instant classic.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway: Album Review

Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the world’s most iconic bands, renowned for their exceptional energy and the stand alone talent of all members. For almost 30 years they have been a huge part of rock music and headlined festivals all over the world, selling over 60 million albums worldwide. Bass player Flea and lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis have been best friends since high school and this band has provided them with opportunities that couldn’t have arose in their wildest dreams. Drug addictions and frequent switches of members have provided setbacks for the group but they now seem as solid as ever. Back after a five year hiatus, the band are back with a new sound and a new lease on life but certainly not a new style. Can the band return to winning ways with this album? Or will they want to ‘Getaway’ from the music industry after a commercial flop? Let’s find out what the American rockers have in store.

The Getaway – 8/10
Such a groovy start to the album’s title track here with those infamous Flea bass chords which have created this wonderful sound of the Chili’s for decades. I also really love the electric guitar on this song, it’s so subtle but effective to the style of the song which allows Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer, to dominate with his still to this day wonderful vocals. He has a voice which not many can emulate and it suits the sound of the band perfectly. To put this in perspective, it’s a proper classic Red Hot Chili Peppers sound in all its glory, all of the old tricks which made them so successful are apparent here. As the lyrics say, it’s a “melancholy” song but not in the sense of Under The Bridge style which is very slow and like a ballad, this is a more modern twist and does still have some jig and some life to it, particularly at the end where the switch up is particularly poignant with that echoed guitar playing. The end is as sharp and sudden as it gets, the instruments fade out leaving Kiedis’ voice as a stand alone and he just completely cuts, abrupt and final. Brilliant opener, more of the same please.

Dark Necessities – 8.5/10
Lead single off the album, this is the track which truly announced the triumphant return of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and we were all hugely grateful for it, a breath of fresh air to hear some real throwback Chili’s music. The build up on this song is gradual but very strong as a pace builder and once we do eventually break into the song itself we hear a distinct bass riff from Flea which is right up there with some of his best work, absolutely incredible and it plays the role of the orchestrator for everyone else in the song. Much like Mark Knopfler did for Dire Straits with his guitar playing, Flea seems to keep the rhythm of the band all by himself with distinct instrumentation, a brilliant and unbridled talent. Anyway, back to the song itself which offers us the best of both sides of the Chili’s, in particular, the vocal range of Anthony Kiedis. In the verses we hear a stuttered vocal which turns into a slow rap at times but there’s a complete switch up in the chorus as he offers a strong demonstration of high notes and pace keeping. It’s a really cool song this one and it’s easy to see why it’s the lead single from the album, it’s definitely the one which will appeal to the most people. My one issue with it is that it does drag a tiny bit towards the end with the guitar solo going a bit longer than necessary and then the fade out at the end taking too long also. Other than that, it’s a really solid song and provided a triumphant return for the American rock veterans.

We Turn Red – 7/10
Stuttered drum beat starts this song off and kind of sets the tone, it all becomes a bit strange and all the instruments as well as the vocals sound slightly out of the ordinary but I suppose that’s part of the mould of the band over their many years in the industry. However, the transition into the chorus is magical, I love that stripped back almost acoustic sound as Kiedis sings over a very soft tune with lyricism regarding, well, I’m not 100% sure on that, it’s all quite odd but once again I’ll say it, when have the Chili’s ever been conventional in anything they do? This was the second single and with the greatest respect I’m not really sure why, it doesn’t have a single sound to it at all and there are times where it does strike me almost as a filler track but on the other hand there are moments and aspects to this song which are fantastic. It’s a real mixed bag this song, some people will love it and some will hate it, I’m drifting right in between at the moment. I don’t love it but I certainly don’t dislike it.

The Longest Wave – 7/10
You wouldn’t think John Frusciante left the band with that guitar riff at the start, it was an absolutely iconic Chili’s riff, something you’d expect to hear on a mellow hit from the ‘By The Way’ album. The song as a whole is a very calming track and the sort of song you’d sway to for the most part. The chorus does kick into a little bit of life as the instruments appear to be turned up louder and the vocals increase a bit too but it’s still in the same style of the song, just a bit louder that’s all. I feel like this song is almost a necessity for a Red Hot Chili Peppers project to maintain a certain diversity and unpredictability to their sound, there’s never been an album from them where every track has been under the same ilk and style and this song ensures that ‘The Getaway’ will be no different. It’s also just the correct length of song at three and a half minutes so just as the song ends we feel we have reached our limit with that style so it’s well worked by them there. Good song, great riff, but won’t be an absolute stand out I don’t think.

Goodbye Angels – 8/10
Another slow track at the start with acute and subtle guitar playing in the background of Kiedis’ typical vocals of solid high keyed notes and fast paced rhymes. The build up of this song is recognisable by the use of the “ayo” repetition in the verse to provide a cool and upbeat sound along with a tone setter. When it does come about, the explosion of noise from the instruments are brilliant and really change the setting of the song. What is notable from this song, however, is that the vocals don’t necessarily change a great deal with the huge change in the instrumental other than a couple of elongated high notes. Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of this song comes at the end with a quite brilliant bass solo followed by a shredding guitar riff and high octane drums, it’s an intense finale to this song and perhaps gives out this outburst of energy which they’ve been striving to unlock. Good song which only got better as it went on, the transformation from ballad to rock anthem was exemplary.

Sick Love – 7/10
The sort of song you’d hear on the beaches of California, it’s just so summery and so cool. It’s a song about love in as much as a Chili Peppers song can be about love as there are still blatant elements of bizarreness and the crazy attitudes of the band’s personality. That doesn’t mean this song isn’t great and doesn’t share many great similarities with other top Chili’s songs. The distinct change up between verse and chorus is something which the band have always stuck with throughout their time and once again here, it is like two different genres in one song. It’s a bit more modern with a few of the synthesisers used in the instrumental making this song sound slightly space age at times but I quite like that. It’s another steady but decent song, nothing mind blowing but just a really solid chilled out song.

Go Robot – 8/10
Flea and his bass are at the forefront once again here with that funk sound he’s made famous once again. The electronics in the background are trippy but smooth in their delivery and help make the song what it is. As for the meaning of this song, well I think it’s about being in love with a robot? But not like a metaphor of a girl who is similar to a robot in her actions, but an actual robot. It’s just so odd but I may be sounding like a broken record when I say that if anyone gets away with bizarre intentions in their lyrics it’s the Chili Peppers. The chorus is catchy and will be stuck in your head after only a couple of listens. For me this one could be a bit of a highlight of this album, a really groovy track with some great musical layers to it from start to finish. The robotic theme is seen at the end too with this re-introduction of an electronic instrumental and it sounds really good and fun. An incredibly easy listening song this one, I recommend it.

Feasting On The Flowers – 6.5/10
A bit more of an actual band sound on this song with a fairly ‘normal’ guitar riff if you will. The drum beat is simple but effective and holds the track together. The lyrics in the chorus are quite annoying, however with his grinding repetition of “I do and I don’t” it’s just too much to cope with at the best of times. The whole motive of the song is generally positive though and it drifts in and out of childhood memories and how he’s trying to hang on to those forever. I think if a true childhood memory of the band is “feasting on the flowers” then there really is no wonder they’re so strange if I’m honest. I like the instrumental and the majority of the lyrics and their delivery, I just struggle to get along with the cheerleader styled repetition in the chorus so that brings the rating down.

Detroit – 5.5/10
Sounds like a bit more of a heavier rock hit than what we’ve heard on this album at least and that’s what we get throughout the song, a really gritty track from top to bottom. I really like the echo effect on the vocals too as they add that grittier sound to the whole song. I have got a bone to pick with this song though, it’s unoriginal chorus. The lyrics in the verses are dead cool and have some uniqueness to them, but in the chorus there is a literal repetition of the same line and it just annoys me, complete lack of imagination. Also, describing yourself “like Detroit” because you’re “crazy” just doesn’t really work, like please explain to me why Detroit is crazy? Anyway this is a weak song on this track list by comparison to the others, it’s a different avenue but it’s not a very good one.

This Ticonderoga – 6.5/10
Energy, energy and more energy. Progressive instrumentals, loud vocals, high octane choruses, this song has exactly what is lacking from the previous track. We have a slight break from this noise bomb when Kiedis sings over very quaint chords with a much softer voice but that is only a brief couple of moments in this song. The lyrics are weird, like really weird but what do you expect from a song with a title like this one? Mentioning of animals is a revalue occurrence on this track, saying “all these animals want to be just like you” which could well be true but we don’t know that for certain. I like the way this song ends too with a cry of excitement and joy from Kiedis calling a halt to his band’s playing and a complete cut out before moving into the next song. It’s a fairly good track, not a great one, but still strong nonetheless.

Encore – 8/10
One of the strongest tracks on this whole project without a doubt. A dark, crisp and nostalgic song full of emotion. It contains a beautifully melodic guitar riff and a very subtle calming drum beat. I also love The Beatles’ reference at the start of the song talking about how he used to sit around and “get high” listening to them when he was younger, perhaps with band mate and long time friend Flea. The chorus is definitely one that was designed to be sung to the masses and belted out at a show and I for one love it. It’s a beautiful throwback Chili Peppers song and one which will no doubt go down a treat with huge fans of the band.

The Hunter – 6/10
Not to be confused with the high octane Slaves song which has an extremely different style to this one. This is a slow jam which again places emphasis on the guitar talents of new lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who in his 5 years in the band has proved a worthy replacement for the legendary John Frusciante. Anyway, the song itself is steady and takes somewhat of a tragic note with the piano keys twinning a strained vocal from Anthony Kiedis, a more sensitive side to what we have seen in recent times from the band. I really like the saxophones in the bridge part of the song too as they add a cool effect and sound to the song, they make us sound quite triumphant in a way. It’s a good song don’t get me wrong, but there are times where you could easily drift in and out of the song, it struggles to grab your attention for the full length and that’s not ideal criteria for anyone’s music.

Dreams Of A Samurai – 6.5/10
The whole album really ends on a mysteriously bleak and depressing tone with the last few songs being slow and heavily piano/high key guitars being at the forefront. This one is no different but also contains a brilliant bass riff from Flea as well as a unique and funky drum beat by Chad Smith. The typical band ethos comes into fruition in the first verse with this slow build up of funk guitar and cymbal bashing by the band behind Anthony Kiedis’ hushed tones. As it builds up into the chorus we get this unholy and heavily altered noise coming from the guitar and if I’m honest I’m not a massive fan of that. It dominated the sound of the chorus and so for me to not like it says all you need to know about how I feel as a whole. The drums are cool, however and truly demonstrate the uber talent of Chad Smith. Does remind me of Venice Queen, the final song on the By The Way album in its build up and length so perhaps that’s the direction they tried to go in here. It’s a song with huge intentions yet quite small delivery, I wasn’t a huge fan and the fact I even compared it to Venice Queen is a slight insult to one of my favourite Chili Peppers songs. Individually, the instruments sound great in the verses and are blatant examples of how amazing all the members are but I just don’t like the chorus at all, it ruins the song in all honesty. A murmured ending to the album when with a few tweaks it could’ve been iconic.

Overall – 7/10
Final verdict, don’t love it but I don’t hate it. Dark Necessities was a triumph and made me proud to be a Chili’s fan on their return and so was the title track, but the rest seem to be a bit wavering and laboured. It’s far from a bad albums but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sing its praises. There wasn’t really an awful song on the album which is a good sign but there were quite a few average ones sadly.
With all things considered, the thing I’m most grateful for with this album is the band’s return and a final chance for me to see one of my favourite ever bands live, a chance I grasped with open arms.

Viola Beach: Album Review

Viola Beach are a 4-piece band that hailed from Warrington near Manchester. They set out into the music industry with a goal, to put their town on the map and encourage others to join in. After a reshuffle of band members in early 2015, they released ‘Swings And Waterslides’ as a single and were quickly recognised by the BBC, who put the band on the introducing stage at the 2015 Reading and Leeds festivals. The band had just been signed onto Communion records, the same label as Ben Howard and Catfish & The Bottlemen and were about to embark on their first tour of the world. That was until news came out that while performing in Sweden, the band and their manager Craig tragically died in a car accident, a moment which made the British music industry stand still in horror. After an appeal from major artists such as Liam Gallagher, The Courteeners and The Stone Roses, ‘Swings And Waterslides’ made it into the charts and became recognisable nationwide. Soon after, during Coldplay’s Glastonbury performance, the band paid tribute to Viola Beach by performing their next single ‘Boys That Sing’ and “letting them headline Glastonbury for a song.” The album has now followed and is lined up to be a posthumous number one album, this is what I make of it.

Swings And Waterslides – 9.5/10
The song which will always make me full of emotion, it’s just stunning. This is the single that was released before their death but became recognisable on a widespread level after they were tragically taken from us and it soared up the charts into the top 10 and rightfully so. It’s a quirky, energetic song all about a girl who makes everything feel alright in Kris’ life and the lyricism is brilliant. The summer imagery he uses is inventive and unique, using a phrase like “Swings and Waterslides” is something most artists haven’t ventured into. I absolutely love the guitar riff on this song it’s just so reminiscent of those bands who were at the forefront of the indie revival, the likes of Vampire Weekend, The Wombats and Two Door Cinema Club. It’s just such an upbeat and happy song, it’s one which I will be blasting out all summer long and I hope you are too. My argument with this song has always been this, if a band with the fame and popularity of perhaps The Wombats had released this song, it would have been a whirlwind stir, much like when they released Let’s Dance To Joy Division, I see it as being that good. It’s an absolutely brilliant song regardless of who released it, whether it be the biggest band ever to walk the earth or a band of relatively limited success and recognition, that much doesn’t change the quality of the song itself which, as I said, is colossal.

Like A Fool – 8.5/10
Once again, this guitar riff is infectious, River was just an absolutely phenomenal guitarist and made the whole thing sound so much more complete. The drumming also needs some recognition here in its crisp delivery and fast pace in that transitional phase between chorus and verse so all praise to Jack for that and making a very cool drum beat. The song itself is exactly that, cool, modern and relevant to today’s music scene whilst at the same time being slightly different to what we usually hear and you feel it slots in brilliantly to that current indie gap we have in the charts alongside the likes of Bastille and Two Door Cinema Club who are making their returns. I love the switch up on this song as it moves from that steady paced verse with Kris’ vocals seeming fairly isolated along with Tom’s bass tones to a rip up of energy in the chorus and a real distinct and clear change in the vocals as he really shows off his range. Another great song, snappy, to the point and exactly what this industry needed, a bit of buzz.

Go Outside – 8/10
Summer. That’s the only word that comes to mind with this song, it’s the sort of thing you’ll play on the beach with friends or at a barbecue, it’s just as feel good as it gets. Kris’ raspy vocals on this song work so well and are brilliant at all points of the song, whether it be the raw parts of the verses, the quicker paces of the chorus or the higher notes on the bridge. It spreads the right message and has a lovely vibe to it of wanting to go outside and see the world while the sun is shining, it’s something we could all do with listening to and doing ourselves, especially in this country of limited sunshine. Once again, it’s a blinding song with a great, upbeat sound to it and I can’t get enough of it.

Cherry Vimto – 6/10
What is apparent about Viola Beach as a band is that during their days of struggling to get signed they were in need of a guitarist to suit their sound and almost be the fronting sound of the band, that fact has never been more apparent than on this song, and boy did they find the right one in River. He was immensely talented and fit like a glove to the band’s vibe and propelled their sound massively. This is a more melancholy song but still has those typical elements that the band were going for with those phases of toe tapping drum beats and guitar chords. Again the lyricism is inventive and original, Kris had the ability to mix up his lyrics and make them unlike the norm if you will. Using terms such as “bittersweet” when describing this girl but wanting her to stay which does seem to be a theme of this album, a fight to keep this girl on his side. It’s probably, in my opinion, the weakest song on the collection but that doesn’t take anything away from individual talent or say that the next person won’t like it, it’s all just down to personal preference.

Drunk – 6.5/10
The mysterious faded start to this song left you on a cliff face wondering what was going to come out of it and what did unveil was something fantastic. Another smooth drum beat with amplified guitar notes which echo before fading away and it’s an effect which works really well in my opinion. A great love song with a much more hard sound to it, especially in the bridge which sounds a lot more indie rock than the soft pop sound they were originally producing. The lyrics are strong willed and hold a modern time to which many young people can relate to. Good song again which warrants it’s place on this album.

Really Wanna Call – 7/10
I really like the ability Kris has to change up his voice from song to song, he ensured that he had depth and variety every time he sang into that microphone. This song is probably the greatest example of him changing it up as he becomes a bit sharper and local with his tones, perhaps sticking to his Warrington roots and stripping it back to basics. The lyrics themselves are heavily love based and you feel they come straight from his heart he is begging her to stay with him and let him show her the love he has to give. I really like the way they can have that positive, upbeat drum and guitar sound while singing about things which could otherwise be perceived as quite bleak and desperate, as the lyrics in most of these songs lean towards him striving to keep this girl on his side.

Call You Up – 7.5/10
Without doubt the softest song on the album which gives the band a chance to demonstrate their more heart-aching side and also their ability to make a great indie love song. These lyrics are a prime example of this as they are really quite heart breaking as we see a fragility and a plea to this girl to give him a chance. The instruments are also very subtle which is unlike any other song on this album, despite the subtleness, however they are still crucial and give off a nice sound, particularly the drums which seem to lead the way in terms of instruments. The song does end in a nice note however as the last line of the chorus states “I know we will be alright in the end” which is almost a reward for his persistence and showing this girl how much she means to him. A really nice listen and something very different to what they have provided on this collection, it’s a great demonstration of variety.

Get To Dancing (Live BBC Session) – 7.5/10
A live recording from the BBC Maida Vale sessions they did in the autumn of 2015, this song has that raw, stripped back live sound that I love from bands. It’s almost an imperfect perfection that you rarely find in a studio recorded remastered song. Kris’ raspy vocals make this song as he really gives it his all on this funky song which really suits the title, it’ll make people want to move a bit and enjoy themselves. The lyrics are very normal life and are scenarios that most people around those teenage adolescent years have gone through regarding going to parties and having love affairs with people after drunken nights. The drum crashes towards the end of this song are brilliant and show Tom’s talent when sat behind his set. It’s another cool song which will be going on my playlists for sure.

Boys That Sing – 10/10
I, much like so many others, became aware of this song when Coldplay performed it as a tribute during their Glastonbury headline set. I remember hearing it and thinking “wow, how had I never heard of these before the awful news?” The whole song just clicked for me and brought me back to my youth and starting to grow and develop my own musical opinion and listening to some of my first artists, the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks, Razorlight and then later on moving on to Vampire Weekend and Bombay Bicycle Club. This brought all those memories flooding back and gave me that same feeling I felt when I first heard ‘Last Nite’ by The Strokes or when I heard ‘A-Punk’ for the first time, those happy moments filled with upbeat and joyous music played the way it should be. Basically, this song is just brilliant, I’m sure you’ve all heard it already but if not please listen to it, an absolute pleasure to listen to and I’m sure if you like similar music to me, it’ll bring the same feeling to you too. Anyway, the song itself, the drum beat is crisp, cool and catchy in it’s delivery before the typically summery vibe of River’s guitar riff. Kris’ lyrics flow very well and have a strong rhyme structure to them. The chorus is definitely the highlight of this song, I love the way it just explodes into life and Kris sings about all these things the girl has said to him. Once again th transitional phases are non existent and I like that, it’s an explosion of life and then a cool and chilled out vibe. The best song of this collection and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Overall – 7.5/10
I think what truly saddens me the most about Viola Beach is this, you can tell they’re thoroughly enjoying playing and performing and that’s what makes it all the more tragic that these four delightful and positive lads are no longer with us. A band full of joy, positivity and confidence in themselves in order to succeed, it’s a crying shame we won’t get to hear any more of their music. Despite this, what we have here is a very good album with very good songs which can be enjoyed for a lifetime, I’m so very grateful to the families of the band for releasing this work to the public and showing us all how talented they were. So Kris, River, Jack, Tom and your manager Craig, congratulations on this, a brilliant project and something that I’m sure you were immensely proud of until the very end.