On January 29, 2013, Late Night Alumni released their newest album, The Beat Becomes A Sound, on iTunes. It's the album featuring the track from their latest single, "Shine," which is why I ultimately held off from purchasing the single. I was anticipating my purchase of the album instead. [[ Look for the red text if you want to skip my small rant/problem with this album and get straight to the review itself. ]]
The following picture may throw you off but bear with me.
|Let's give this little fellow here a pat on the back for lasting so long while it now has its time in the spotlight. *Pat*.|
Anyway, I'm starting off with a picture of my iPod Touch to get my only problem with this album out of the way. As I said right at the opening of this post, The Beat Becomes a Sound was released on iTunes only on the 29th of January this year. Meaning it was only available digitally at the time. I'm a CD-kind-of-girl because, well, I like having hard copies of music I love enough to purchase and support, so I checked Amazon, the place I bought my hard copy of their previous album, Haunted. Here, it wasn't available for purchase until February 12, 2013. Hoping it would be an actual CD version, I decided to hold off for that specific release date.
Point-blank, it wasn't a CD. It was just another collection of the MP3 files available for purchase individually or as a 'whole.' I don't know if Late Night Alumni is going to start sticking to the digital route or is simply delaying a CD release of this album. I can't even speak on behalf of how Haunted was released because I didn't stumble upon the band itself until months after that release date.
I ended up purchasing this album off iTunes since I had no desire to download Sound Cloud, or whatever the Amazon player is called. For the rest of this review, I can only provide two additional pictures of the album cover as it is displayed on my iPod Touch, which really annoys me because the screen is displayed all wave-like on my camera. Other than that though...
I love this album!
[[REVIEW STARTS HERE]]
The Beat Becomes a Sound cost $10 in the iTunes store and was instantly downloaded to my iTunes library.
Since I only own the digital version of the album, I can only comment on its cover.
This is a fairly simple album cover, as there is no setting to it like that of Haunted. It's just Becky Jean Williams, the singer, and the names of the band and the album.
I decided not to take a picture of the actual track list because of how weird the screen of my iPod Touch almost always comes up in pictures, so the rest of this review will be one large (though broken) wall of text. Sorry guys!
01. Ring a Bell
02. The World Spins 'Round
04. Every Breath Is Like a Heartbeat
05. Summer Lies
06. Sun Space
08. My Awake
09. It's Only Life
I took a different approach in preparing for this review than usual. For starters, all reviews in my Music category have been of singles, DVDs, re-collections (that is, collections of previously released songs with one or two new songs), or albums I've owned for months already. This is the first music review I'm doing of an album that is completely new and has only been around (in my possession at least) for less than a week. So, to better prepare for reviewing it, I've been listening to this album from beginning to end every day since I purchased it.
Songs in my iTunes library are alphabetized, so when I rip new CDs onto my iTunes player I tend to listen to them in their new, alphabetized order. But the organization of songs on an album is an executive decision made on behalf of the band/artist. That is, the songs are usually organized in a way that is meant to project to a greater whole of the album itself. They're organized with purpose.
In this review, I will be sharing my own thoughts on the structure of the songs in relation to each other as well as what I like about each song individually. As such, I will be commenting on every track in this album. Brace yourself.
> Greater-than-thou (hah) sign indicates a pengu flipper, or PF, which is used to rate each song. It is my penguin-take on the star/thumbs-up system. One > is the lowest rating, while >>>>> is the highest rating. Half-PF's are rounded up.
01. RING A BELL >>>>>
Between the catchy music and the fact that the opening lines of this song pretty much include all the words in the band's name, I love this song as the album's opening. The percussion change at 1:38 is one I really enjoy - in fact, that's one of the musical aspects I love about this band: their catchy-as-hell beats (ohoho me and my puns). At 3:06, the song undergoes another change that includes what sounds like an acoustic guitar and an acoustic BASS!!!! I love how the acoustic instruments sound beside the more digitized parts of the song (don't think that's the ideal word I want to use...but I can't think of a better one at the moment). I gave this song five pengu flippers (HAHA).
02. THE WORLD SPINS 'ROUND >>>>
This song is the second of two songs I like the least on the album. It's not a bad song, I just find it 'flat' compared to other tracks. The thing about Late Night Alumni, and the reason they've become one of my favorite bands/artists (up there with Sakamoto Maaya and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, in fact) in such short time is because they have this musical...I don't know...capability, I guess, to capture some of the most beautiful and chilling chords available in the world of sound. I've never encountered so much consistency in the presence of these kinds of chords with any other musical entity (lol) out there. Don't get me wrong; Sakamoto Maaya remains my favorite artist ever, precisely because her songs have sounds to them I love as well, but they don't have the chords that are so apparent and consistent in Late Night Alumni's songs. Unfortunately, it's those chords that I see very little of in this track, so it's one I don't enjoy as much as the others. Three and a half PFs for this one.
03. SHINE >>>>>
"Shine" is what helps pick up the pace of the album after "The World Spins 'Round." In fact, like with "Spin" in Haunted, "Shine," the song I discovered before the album, remains my favorite even after encountering all eleven other tracks. The lyrics, for one, are incredibly inspiring. Anyone who has ever based their worth on another person and been hurt in the end over it can find so much empowerment from these lyrics: "How was I to know you weren't the captain of my soul? Not overthrown 'cause I know today I can be champion on my own." As for the music, I was first repelled by the techno-like change at 2:23, but the percussion change at 2:37 was so catchy that I don't mind that techno-section at all anymore. What really leaves an impression on me every time, though, is the hushed end to that same part of the song (the bridge, I guess you'd call it) at 2:45. The change from heavy percussion and amplified sound to quiet, percussion-less sound, coupled with the fact that my favorite part of the lyrics are sung at that point, is amazing. And for those curious, the lyrics I'm talking about are the following: "I'll never be alone. The rest of my life. Looking out for better days. Shining brighter lights." FIVE PFs.
04. EVERY BREATH IS LIKE A HEARTBEAT >>>>>
This is the song that features the title of the album, and it's another that I would adore almost as much as "Shine" if not for the musical change near the end. First, though, I want to put out there that I love the catchy chorus: "Every breath is like a heartbeat. Suddenly the beat becomes a sound. Just like a dream that you had once, how you tried, but couldn't run." Besides the great lyrics, the chorus has a very tick-tock kind of sound to it, which I find emphasizes the idea of "beats" and what bigger picture they can paint when laced together. Now, the change in the song that I don't like that much is the one that happens at 3:13. I can't say why I don't like it - I just don't. But I love how it progresses with the repetition of lyrics and the addition of different beats. I also love how, at the song's end, it returns to the original chorus, though it rearranges it slightly: "Suddenly the beat becomes a sound...Just like a dream that you had once..." Oh, and for all the English nerds out there, I love the title of the song itself because of how the entire letter makeup of the word 'breath' can be found in 'heartbeat'...hah. I gave this song five PFs.
05. SUMMER LIES >>>>
I find this song very soothing. It has a jazz-ish sound to it, and a guitar that just brings to mind "summer" to me, for some reason, haha. There is nothing particularly amazing about this song, but it's a nice 'break' to the album, whose previous two songs are very 'heavy'/'busy' in terms of their layers of sound. It's also a fantastic transition between the fast-paced "Every Breath Is Like a Heartbeat" to the much slower sixth track, "Sun Space." I gave this one four PFs.
06. SUN SPACE >>>>>
I love the title, I love the chords, I love the lyrics, I love this song. It is so peaceful, so calming, and beautiful on top of that. Becky's voice is made for songs like these (not that her voice isn't great in all the other songs). It's just the perfect song to fall asleep to, or to reminisce to. It was the first song on the album I felt compelled to share with my boyfriend because I loved it so much, and he enjoyed it too. The music during most of the song is beautiful, but I also love the change at 2:20. The piano really captures that chilling quality to the chords that I mentioned earlier. As for the end, the music and lyrics are stunning. Even an average song with an amazing end is one that grows on me, but for an amazing song to have an even more breathtaking end...those are the gems I always hope to stumble upon when I purchase a new album from a favorite band/artist. The ending lyrics are as follows: "I'll see life go by, while outside, sun shines. This won't be the last 'one more time.' 'Cause the sun shines...on me." Anyway...this song honestly rivals "Shine" as my favorite in the album...but it's a song that makes me feel more mellow, which is not a feeling I can savor all the time. Hence why I've decided on "Shine" as my favorite in the end. Five PFs.
07. DAYS >>>>>
"Days" has a very catchy beat at the opening. It was one of the stand-outs to this album during my first run through it, in fact. The whole "days go by" part of the pre-chorus is also very catchy to me. Hah, catchy, catchy, catchy - that's the reason I enjoy this song. The bridge is calmer, and makes this song most closely resemble "Summer Lies" (which makes it an appropriate transition from "Sun Space," now that I think about it). And I love the strings at 3:22. There really isn't much else to say about this song, though. Five PFs here too, haha. I'm too free with the fives! I know only my absolute favorites should be given fives, but I can't help it.
08. MY AWAKE >>>>
The chorus of this song is my favorite part, especially the part when the lyrics "'Cause I was your one. I was your only one" are repeated. The pace of this song is on par with that of "Summer Lies" and "Days," most likely because the next track is as slow as "Sun Space." Nothing spectacular about this song, but I do find myself wanting to listen to it, perhaps because I love the chilling sound that comes in between 3:07 and 3:38. Four PFs.
09. IT'S ONLY LIFE >>>
My least favorite song of the album. I think that maybe it's the lack of change in the music, and the music itself at "It's only life...," that loses my interest. Every time this song has come on during my many rounds through the album, I've either had no musical recollection of it (during my first few rounds) or waited patiently for it to finish (the more recent reaction). I do like the following lyrics: "I promised you I'd hope for Heaven. But maybe you're waiting for the right time to come back home." I also do like the music at 1:58, but again, the music at the chorus loses me. Three PFs for this song, the official rock-bottom rating in the album. In other words, it only goes up from here! :)
10. SAPPHIRE >>>>>
Between "My Awake," a good song but not the best, and "It's Only Life," my least favorite song in the album, the pace of the album starts to slow down for me. But "Sapphire" picks it right back up. I love "Sapphire." The word that comes to mind every time I hear the super packed, fast-paced beat of the chorus is "refreshing." It's like one of those happy endings to a great party, or a great game, or show even - does that even make sense to anyone? ^_^' That's what it is though. And after hearing the closing song to this album multiple times by now, I keep feeling like this song should be the second-to-last track of the album. I even wish it was sometimes, because it makes so much sense to me like that. I don't mean to say the next song - the actual second-to-last track of the album - isn't a good song. Listening to the transition between the end of "Sapphire" and the beginning of the eleventh track, "Mistake," makes me anticipate the last song, in a sense. Let's get into "Mistake" so I can explain why. And, not surprisingly, five PFs for "Sapphire."
11. MISTAKE >>>>>
"Mistake" has both fast- and slow-paced parts to it, and the percussion/guitar are catchy to me. I think it's an appropriate middleground between "Sapphire" and the closing song, "Everything," which is on the slower and calmer side. Also, as crazy as this may sound, the 'droplet' melody at the opening of the song and its repetition in the background synthesizers during the verses makes me think of the 'approach of the end.' Maybe it's because I now know that the end of the album is literally a song away - actually, this is most likely the case, haha. But yeah, while I would love "Sapphire" and "Everything" to be back-to-back at the album's very end, I do love the triplet of "Sapphire"-"Mistake"-"Everything" as well. Five PFs.
12. EVERYTHING >>>>>
Quiet and calming - the close cousin of "Sun Space," though not as breathtaking. Still a wonderful song, and a perfect ending to the album. As I get closer and closer to the album's end, I get bittersweet feelings: slight sadness since the journey of the album is almost over, and slight anticipation for "Everything." Now that I'm listening to this song again, I want to almost say that "Everything" is "It's Only Life" done right (for my tastes, anyway - this is all my opinion!). It has a similar musical sound to it as "It's Only Life," but I find it so much more interesting and beautiful. In terms of its role as the album's closing track, this song executes the position perfectly. I say that because the last 50 or so seconds are just...they give me that heavy feeling I get at the end of my favorite TV shows and movies. It just fades into complete silence, silence that remains as there are no more tracks to follow. I definitely give this song five PFs and...
By far, Late Night Alumni's The Beat Becomes a Sound gets FIVE full PFs.
I love this album, perhaps even more than their last, Haunted. But I honestly feel that I owe the moving experience to the fact that I took out the time to listen to this album as a whole in a single sitting. I find that I best enjoy each song when listened to in relation to its predecessor and successor. For example, I do believe that "Everything" will only have its full potential impact on me when listened to after listening to all eleven other songs in their respective order. This approach has changed my appreciation of albums for what they are - the sum of all the tracks in their given order, the journey from the beginning to end as the artist intended. I plan to listen to Haunted just the same (to figure out which one is my overall favorite), as well as all future albums I purchase.
I encourage you all to try the same approach at some point in time: just put aside an hour or so and listen to your favorite album, or any album for that matter, from start to finish.
In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone that's willing to give it a try, or has taken interest in any of the details included in my review for each specific track. I know this review was lengthy but I feel like cutting corners would have justified not writing it at all.
I hope this post was helpful and, as always, thank you for your time. ('<>')>