About This Site

Each month I select 20 songs (10 songs twice a month) that I am either hooked on or am curious about. Most of the music I select are rock, hip-hop, R&B and pop songs.

My song selection comes from 20-30 CDs I get from various sources each month, as well as recommendations from iTunes and Amazon. I also check out the charts in US, UK and Japan.

August 27, 2008

Amy Macdonald - This Is The Life

Album: This Is The Life

If you are a fan of Scottish singer/songwriter, KT Tunstall, you will probably enjoy this newcomer from Scotland. Amy Macdonald is 12 years younger than Tunstall, but lyrically, her music is quite mature. Her music has a bit more pop feel to it. This song in particular reminds me of the “Asereje – the ketchup song” (if anybody remembers that song).

David Banner - Get Like Me /ft. Chris Brown

Album: The Greatest Story Ever Told

David Banner is apparently not his real name. I’ve never watched The Incredible Hulk, so I didn’t know that’s the main character’s name on the series. The rapper Banner had a fairly popular hit in 2005 with “Play” which I didn’t like very much. I like this track, “Get Like Me” but this is one of those songs that sounds good for the first minute or so, but gets very boring toward the end as the beat is a bit too repetitive.

Glen Campbell - Times Like These

Album: Meet Glen Campbell

Johnny Cash was re-introduced to the younger audience when he covered Nine Inch Nails. “Like a rhinestone cowboy” singer Glen Campbell, who is in his 70s now, might be trying to do the same (as the album title suggests), as he decided to cover contemporary artists like Green Day, U2 and Travis. My favorite was cover of Foo Fighter’s “Times Like These.” When Campbell sings it, there’s more weight to it, like he has lived a long life (which he has) and means it as he sings, “It’s times like these you give and give again. It’s times like these you learn to love again.”

Juliana Hatfield - This Lonely Love /ft. Richard Butler

Album: How To Walk Away

Richard Butler is a lead singer of Psychedelic Furs (and in late 90s briefly formed Love Spit Love, which had a good single”Am I Wrong”), who is famous for their 80s hit, “Pretty In Pink.” I love the opening of this song. It kind of reminds me of Law & Order theme song (though I’ve actually never watched a single episode). It’s a cool duet. I haven’t really heard of any of her songs since Reality Bites soundtrack (wow, that’s almost 15 years ago), but I’m impressed with this song.

Kevin Rudolf - Let It Rock /ft. Lil Wayne

Album: Let It Rock (Single)

I can’t find much information on this guy, Kevin Rudolf. From what I can gather, he used to be a studio musician (guitar player), but somehow he was signed to Lil Wayne and Birdman’s Cashmoney label. I don’t even know if he’s white or black. But I really like Lil Wayne rapping to the rock song. With the vocal effect, Kevin Rudolf sounds a lot like Boom Boom Satellites. I’m surprised that this song is not getting any exposure or promotion.

Leona Lewis - Better In Time

Album: Spirit

When I reviewed her debut single, “Bleeding Love” last November, she had not crossed over to the US yet. Now, she’s a global star. She even performed at Beijing Olympic (since the next one up is London, where she’s from). This second single proves that she’s not just a one hit wonder. “Better In Time” is a beautiful pop ballad, surprisingly produced by JR Rotem (recently famous for discovering and producing Jamaican, Sean Kingston).

Slipknot - Psychosocial

Album: All Hope Is Gone

Slipknot used to be a small band from Des Moines, Iowa, and now they are one of the biggest metal acts in the world, not to mention that they wear freaky masks at their live shows. All Hope Is Gone is their fourth studio album, which took four years to record, mostly because the lead singer, Corey Taylor had a pretty good success with his side project, Stone Sour two years ago (personally I prefer Stone Sour over Slipknot since they are easier on your ear). This particular track, “Psychosocial” sounds like Slipknot and Stone Sour mixed together, except it doesn’t blend too well. I like the Stone Sour part, if you know what I mean.

Staind - Believe

Album: The Illusion Of Progress

Staind got career boost after Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit guy) introduced them to the world. Now, where’s Durst? Staind continues to have success, except this album didn’t reach #1 on album chart, like their previous three albums did. Staind has been kind of labeled as metal band for wussies (well, compared to Slipknot, their songs gets played on adult contemporary stations). Wussies they may be, but they have sold over 15 million albums so far in their career.

T.I. - Whatever You Like

Album: Paper Trail

After “Whatever You Like” was released on iTunes, it sold 205,000 downloads, which jumped this track from #71 to #1 in a single week, breaking the previous record set by Maroon 5’s “Makes Me Wonder” which went from #64 to #1. This is T.I.’s first #1 single, if you don’t include Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” where he was featured. It’s a decent rap track. I will probably need to hear it a few more times to get a hang of it.

The Vines - He's A Rocker

Album: Melodia

[sample not available]
Aussie rock band, The Vines, was considered to be the “next Nirvana” in the early 2000s. I thought their songs were catchy and decent, but I never thought they deserved such a nickname. And they disappeared, at least in the US, I didn’t hear about them for several years. Fast forward to 2008, and I still haven’t heard much about them, except that they have just released an album in Australia with this single, “He’s A Rocker” (no relation to the movie, “The Rocker”). It’s a catchy, fun, rock song that makes you want to jump up and down in the mosh pit. The album is not available in US or UK yet, but it is digitally available on iTunes.

August 14, 2008

All Time Low - Umbrella (Rihanna Cover)

Album: Punk Goes Crunk

Last month I selected The Maine’s cover of Akon’s “I Wanna Love You” from the same album. After listening to the album some more, I was starting to like this version of the song. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” has been covered by so many artists, particularly on live shows. My Chemical Romance, Tegan and Sara, Mandy Moore, and Linkin Park have been known to do it live sometimes. Whether you like or hate Rihanna, I think that goes to show how great of a song this is. All Time Low is a young American rock band. All the band members just graduated from highschool two years ago.

Carrie Rodriguez - Infinite Night

Album: She Ain't Me

This song was offered as a free download from iTunes last week. The more I listened to this track, the more I got into it. She used to be a violin player, then took up fiddle. She quickly became a popular fiddle player to be featured on big name artists, but she got her chance to sing for her own album. She Ain’t Me is her second album. It’s a good folky, bluegrass album worth checking out. Also check out her fiddle playing ability, which can be found on YouTube.

Garbage - All The Good In This Life

Album: Songs For Tibet - The Art of Peace

I would’ve never really paid attention to this album, except that my favorite band, Garbage was contributing a song. These charity CDs are for the good cause, but I’m sorry to say this, most of the time these “benefit” songs aren’t very good, as if they are leftover from artist’s stash, which generally is (but the US Olympics CD is really good).

But I found many interesting comments on the iTunes customer review. A lot of Chinese people ranted and rated the album 1 star. Some mentioned about how Americans are clueless and don’t know that Tibetans have had slaves and have been murderers, or that freeing Tibet from China is like separating New York from the US. I’ve never fully understood what is going on in Tibet, but I wonder if anybody has all the details. Something tells me that Americans probably don’t know all of the Tibetan history (it’s probably somewhat skewed), and Chinese people probably also has somewhat skewed view of Tibet as well.

But the bottom line is that these songs are supposed to represent peace. If only peace can sound much more upbeat and fun, I may be able to enjoy this CD. I’m at least contributing my 99 cent for this track by Garbage, which was originally used as a B-side.

Girl Talk - Still Here

Album: Feed The Animals

Girl Talk sounds like all girl pop group (like Girls Aloud), but it’s just a stage name, mashup DJ Gregg Gillis use. If you are the type that appreciate mashup songs (taking two completely different songs and mixing it), you would probably like his stuff. But if you are the type that gets annoyed by DJs that “tries too hard” at clubs by over mixing too much, then you may want to skip his songs. Interesting fact about his songs is that he didn’t get legal clearance for any of the songs. He is currently selling his new album online as “pay what you want.” I was only interested in one song, but you had to get the whole album, so I paid $2. It’s interesting how he mashed up some songs together. On this particular track, he mashes 24 popular hits including Kanye West’s "Good Life" and Swedish pop group Ace of Base. On another track, he successfully mixed Eminem with Yael Naim’s “New Soul.”You can check out rest of his songs on his MySpace.

Kardinal Offishall - Dangerous /ft. Akon

Album: Not 4 Sale

Kardinal Offishall is a Canadian reggae styled hip-hop artist. He has been considered one of Canada’s most unique underground rapper. Recently he signed onto Akon’s label, and a lot of Canadian hip-hop followers are calling him sell out. Give the guy some break. He’s been rapping for over 10 years without getting noticed much in the US (though he has had a bit of success in his native country Canada), and this is his chance. This song was actually available as a free download from iTunes several months ago.

The Maine – Into Your Arms

Album: Can't Stop Won't Stop

The piano chord on this song sounded like something from the late 90s. It took me a long time to remember what it was from, and I finally remembered that it was Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” I had never heard of this band before until last month when I picked up Punk Goes Crunk album, and they covered Akon’s “I Wanna Love You”. I liked the cover, so I looked into their stuff, and it just happened that they had just released a new album.

Sam Sparro - Black & Gold

Album: Sam Sparro

Sam Sparro is an Australian singer that is now signed to UK label. This song was a popular single in UK about four months ago. I thought about selecting this song then, but dismissed it. Recently I started hearing this song on the local dance station, and it started to grow on me. This self titled album is his debut. He is also a producer, and is supposed to be producing for Lindsay Lohan’s next album.

Scars On Broadway - They Say

Album: Scars On Broadway

System of a Down’s lead vocalist Serj Tankian recently released a so-so solo album ("Empty Walls" was pretty good). The other half of the band, lead guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan decided to form Scars on Broadway, with Malakian taking on the lead vocalist duty. Compared to System of a Down, it’s more rock sounding and less metal. This song was featured as iTunes Fee Single of the Week a couple of weeks ago.

Taylor Swift – Change

Album: AT&T Team USA Soundtrack

When artists contribute a song for a benefit CD, the result is usually not that great, as the songs are usually leftovers or previously recorded for some other purpose (see what I said in the Songs for Tibet entry). But this soundtrack for the US Olympic Team is different. Every single song was recorded for this purpose, and every single song comes with a music video which includes various shots of the US athletes, running, swimming, celebrating, etc.

I was trying to choose one best song from the album, but had a really difficult time. Every single song on the album can be used for a slow motion highlight montage on TV, which would give some people (like me) goosebumps. There are some big name artists on here: Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift, Colbie Calliat, Nelly, Sheryl Crow, Chris Brown, 3 Doors Down just to name a few. In the end, I went with Taylor Swift, as her song was the most popular track on iTunes (second most downloaded track overall, after David Archuleta), and I didn’t think I would ever select the country starlet’s song in the future. This track doesn’t sound too country, and has a bit of Avril feel to it.

Young Jeezy - Put On /ft. Kanye West

Album: The Recession

Young Jeezy was recently featured on Usher’s lead off single, “Love In This Club” which turned out to be a world wide hit. Jeezy is back with his third album, The Recession, to be released in early September. This track features Kanye West rapping using the Auto-Tune effect.