Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Harry Styles – Fine Line

Harry Styles inches closer to delivering a truly great rock album

With his debut self-titled album from 2017, Harry Styles made it evident that he was fully abandoning his sugary teen-pop image from his One Direction days. As the star of his own show, the British singer-songwriter opted for a sound rooted in classic rock, a genre that is increasingly waning in popularity.

On Fine Line, it seems like his personality as a solo artist is developing even more. Songs like “She” and “To Be So Lonely” offer a different perspective from Styles that would make you jump at the thought that this man was the frontman of the band that made “What Makes You Beautiful.”

The singles are, without a doubt, attempts at cracking Billboard’s Top 40, but they are nothing if not entirely pleasant and fun, especially the trumpet-filled “Watermelon Sugar.” The song is sequenced perfectly as its follow-up “Adore You” is another potential chart-topper.

Styles falters, though, in his attempts to make folk songs. “Cherry” is a slow-paced generic tune that features the same guitar strings that could be found on a Mumford & Sons track (and no, that’s not a compliment). The song’s progression is uneventful and the songwriting is lacklustre, two essential elements when crafting a track like this.

“Falling” is a powerful ballad that never quite reaches the highs of “Sign of the Times” from Styles’ self-titled project, but manages to capture the raw emotion conveyed through his strong voice.

Despite being sold as a rock album, Fine Line often finds itself jumping around from subgenre to subgenre, and that lack of sonic cohesiveness is often what makes the record so disjointed at times. It never quite figures out what it wants to be, and while that doesn’t necessarily ruin the quality of its strongest songs, it makes the album sound like a loosely compiled amalgamation of tracks, rather than a streamlined body of work.

Rating: 7/10

Trial Track: Watermelon Sugar



Quickspins: Brian Eno, Charli XCX, One Direction, Aerosmith

Brian Eno – Lux (2012; Warp)

The Latin word for “Light,” Lux is a return to Brian Eno’s ambient roots and a continuation of his ‘Music For Thinking’ project. This 75-minute, 12-part, four-movement ambient composition was commissioned as a sound art installation for the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin, Italy.

Much like the experience of entering a gallery and immersing yourself in art, Lux transports the listener to a contemplative mindspace that continuously shifts and morphs in on itself, changing yet remaining constant. Relaxing, all while being compelling, Lux creates a soundscape of delicate synthesizers, strings and light piano notes that does not demand your attention, but lures you into a half-lucid state like the whisper of a dream.

Eno is also releasing an app to accompany his new album. “Bloom” is an interactive composition program that allows the user to create a Eno-esque sound art installation of his or her own.

Trial track: “LUX 1/2/3/4”

Rating: 8/10

– Paul Traunero


Charli XCX – Super Ultra – Free Mixtape (2012)

The 20-year-old British singer-songwriter Charli XCX is back with a crazier-than-usual mixtape, Super Ultra. The mix, which includes both original music and covers, is a strange blend of pop, rap, hip hop, indie and a touch of techno, all somehow coming together into what the singer calls “Angel Pop.” The intros are inventive, one of which even includes a dialog from Cruel Intentions.

With their perverted lyrics and strange beats, her tracks are incredibly catchy. Lyrics go from angst to rebellious teenager. In “2 Moments in Love” she is a rebel, saying “I just want to get high with my best friend/kiss her on the tongue just like I’m your boyfriend.” But other tracks, like “Forgiveness,” have a little more depth.

Although it is clear that Charli XCX is still trying to find her voice, she seems to be on to something. It’s a sugarcoated mess, but still worth a listen.

Trial track: “Cloud Aura” ft. Brooke Candy

Rating: 6.3/10

– Nathalie Laflamme


One Direction – Take Me Home (2012; Syco Records)

Despite being trite and formulaic, One Direction’s second album Take Me Home is painfully addictive. The tried and tested formula of cheeky guitar riffs, crowd-pleasing choruses and five-part harmonies creates an album that is essentially identical to their first one, except for deeper voices and riskier lyrics.

The album’s strengths lie in irresistibly cheesy pop tracks like “Kiss You” and “Heart Attack,” which are the musical equivalent of over-indulging in sugary junk food. Meanwhile, most of the ballads feel out of place, including British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran originals “Over Again” and “Little Things.” Although they are the best-written songs on the whole album, they are awkwardly dissonant with the rest of the tracks.

There are no surprises on this boy band’s latest effort. It is neither musically nor lyrically creative, but it is undeniably enjoyable if you don’t let your pretensions get in the way.

Trial track: “I Would”

Rating: 6/10

– Suzanne Lafontaine


Aerosmith – Music from Another Dimension! (2012; Columbia)

After an eight year hiatus, Aerosmith is back with their 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension! In a year filled with comebacks from the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith has managed to maintain its signature sound thanks to Steven Tyler’s energetic and unmistakable vocals, paired perfectly with Joe Perry’s stellar guitar riffs.

The first track, entitled “LUV XXX,” leads us to believe that the band is opting for a younger, more modern sound. Despite the tacky title, Aerosmith still possesses the same great energy and musicality that made them famous back in the ‘70s. Tracks like “Legendary Child” could easily be off of their classic album Toys in the Attic alongside the anthems “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” From the opening track to the closing track, Music From Another Dimension! will not disappoint diehard fans or even new listeners.

Trial track: “Legendary Child”

Rating: 8/10

-Jessica Romera

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