Half of My Heart Is In Havana (Camila Cabello, Camila review)

When you start the journey of appreciation, looking back to your roots is the first thing to do, after all it’s what you know best, and heart things are never wrong to share. Just ask Camila.



Camila Cabello – Camila

released January 12, 2018
******* 7/10

Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao, better known by her stage name, Camila Cabello, is a Cuban-American singer and songwriter. She initially got her start as a member of the super popular girl group Fifth Harmony, formed during one of the first seasons of the show The X Factor.

But, she’s no longer part of that group. Duh duh duh.

Working hard behind the scenes, Cabello has had her work cut out for her in separating herself from Fifth Harmony and breaking out as a solo artist, but fortunately for us, she gained some positive attention by collaborating with artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Young Thug, Shawn Mendes, and Pit Bull. Interestingly enough, the singles OMG and Crying in the Club, do not feature on this debut album, even though they were intended for it originally. And I think that says a lot about Cabello’s attention to detail – She considered the public reaction to those songs, and the direction her work was headed in, and chose to keep this pop album within the latin influences that it was building off of, and thankfully it worked.

Havana is now that lead single for Camila, and it just works. Released at the same time as OMG, it was a spontaneous success, and it’s been a huge game changer. Have you seen the music video? It’s a slow burn, which typically doesn’t suit the dance floor, but this is one which I could easily see becoming a song of the year. Those horns are amazing, and if you haven’t heard the *mostly* Spanish remix with Daddy Yankee, please check it out. Yes that Daddy Yankee that featured on Despacito – It’s so good that it hurts, and it might even make you forget that track for a bit.

Can I just say that I think every track is ambitious? There is some honesty

She Loves Control is one of my personal favourites, not only because the unexpected collaboration with Skrillex is quite a good pairing, but it appears to be the point that Cabello finally comes into her own sound. That, and it smartly precedes Havana, which will help it get playback if you’re one of those famous song skippers like my fiancée.

But what about the rest of the album? Real Friends is fairly subdued song, which shares a simalar tone and instrumentation with Never Be The Same and All These Years, but I enjoy it all more because it’s so damn melancholy. As that movie Sing Street so aptly put it, love is the ability to be happy being sad. Happy-sad.

Oh and Something’s Gotta Give just breaks your damn heart to listen to. Who hurt this woman and inspired her to come up with Consqeuences? It’s like someone decided to serve sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner eternity.

By the time you get into Into It, I would expect you’d either be into it, or not. And if I were a betting man, I’d wager this will likely be her next single if She Loves Control doesn’t get picked.

Pros: It sounds very different then your average pop album, and it shines especially in the moments where it’s honest and vulnerable.

Cons: Pay close attention, and you can almost hear the points where someone at the record label said, hold my beer, we’re gonna auto-tune the shit out of this, and it’ll be worth it.

Runtime: 36 minutes

Points of InterestSpeaking of her departure from Fifth Harmony, Cabello says “…I am less focused on success and more on doing my best and pursuing my artistic vision to the fullest, wherever that takes me.” That speaks volumes about her, and sounds like a Beyonce or Timberlake move. Fingers crossed.

What likely started as an album about breaking out from a girl group, slowly evolved into something much more nuanced, and while there are the typical elements of love, partying, and heartbreak featured here, the motivations and expressions are a little bit different, which is why Camila Cabello is one to watch.

theories Summarized

I hope you give this album a shot. I myself as sceptical at first, but thankfully it’s been far more impressive then your typical breakout pop artist. And it definitely helps that there is some heart behind this art about Havana; my theory anyway.


Transcendental Model (Miguel, War & Leisure review)

So much protest, so much hate, so much to consider.

But also so much to celebrate.

There’s this theory (most would saw governing law!) in science about energy and how it can exist in a variety of forms, such as electrical, mechanical, chemical, thermal, or nuclear, and can be transformed from one form to another. I’m hoping this week’s artist can help transform sociological conditions into something a little more positive.



Miguel – War & Leisure

released December 1, 2017
********* 9/10

Miguel Jontel Pimentel, better known as Miguel, is an American signer, songwriter, actor and producer.

Son of a Mexican American father and an African American mother, he has been deeply invested in music from a young age; dancing to all of the R&B, funk, hip hop, jazz and classic rock that his parents introduced him to. He later switched gears as a teenager and began to dabble in creating music. While most kids were experimenting with sex and drugs in high school, Miguel was focused on learning about studio production, and by the time he graduated from high school, he auditioned for the production company Drop Squad.

After some learnings, he signed with Black Ice Records in 2004, but ultimately walked away to pursue an authentic look and sound. Then in 2007 he landed a deal with Jive Records and was finally ready to release his debut album, but was sued by Black Ice and had to wait another three years over a contract dispute.

Despite all of this, his debut album, All I Want Is You (2010), was a sleeper hit that garnered him much attention and success, against it’s limited promotion at the time of distribution.

That’s a lot of exposition.

And we haven’t even gotten to the dissolution of Jive Records, which resulted in Miguels move to RCA, and the release of Kaleidoscope Dream. This sophomore effort was a critical success, won him a Grammy and incidentally led to the generation of an internet meme (the Miguel Leg Drop). This third album, Wildheart, was also pretty good, but there aren’t a lot of nuggets there… so let’s move onto War & Leisure.

The first single Sky Walker is one of my favourites, with it’s upbeat tone and springbreak attitude, and like a good drink, it pairs well with the seventh track Told You So. That one could likely be another single later on, with it’s inverse of emotions. Pineapple Skies and Banana Clip both have a very California vibe to them, which makes sense given Miguel’s LA childhood.

Wolf has so much passion, that I couldn’t help but consider it as another of the must-haves. I’m a sinner, a savage, but mostly I’m a wolf. Yeah you are buddy, yeah you are. Blues and fierce. And if you like blues, check out Caramelo Duro.

Harem is a love song heavy on the bass and electronics, sans the gouda. And check out Anointed if you want it even more passionate, eat your heart out Fifty Shades of Grey. But at this point it’s obvious that Miguel is a capable lover, and a sympathetic one too (see Criminal, City of Angels), but this isn’t just a leisure album, it’s one of combat too. It’s a comeback of the best regard and we’re all along for the ride.

Pros: I love The Weeknd just as much as anybody, and especially as a Canadian. For he channels Michael Jackson pop oh so well, but now I don’t ever have to wonder what it would sound like if Prince and MJ set a play date.

Cons: Unfortunately I’m not quite sure where to place Come Through and Chill. It’s laid-back and very R&B, but the booty call element reminds me too much of R. Kelly and it’s out of place against the rest of the sex positive messaging.

Runtime: 48 minutes

Points of Interest: Miguel regularly practices transcendental meditation for balancing his life, and has been with model Nazanin Mandi since 2005, and in 2016 they announced their engagement. Now is the closing track on the album, but the first song that was worked on.

It’s always difficult to write a good review without spoiling the album for my audience dear readers. But thankfully, I’m struggling to put into words how much I enjoyed listening to this all week in a cold January (while I struggled with furnace problems, no less). Miguel manages to hit that sweet spot between entertainer and messenger this time around.

theories Summarized

Yes is the answer. The question is, should you buy this? I’m not even going to entertain the question of when. I have this theory we can continue to expect great things from Mr. Pimentel, transcendental even.


For The Lolz (Paramore, After Laughter review)

A friend of mine once told me that the kinds of music you prefer to listen to can tell you a lot about your personality, maturity and proclivities.

Not to mention all of the hundreds of articles and quizzes out there which claim to predict your personality based on how you answer certain questions. For instance, someone who listens to classical music would be typified as smart, hip hop fans are extroverts, and punk rockers are intense, energetic, and low on empathy.

Here’s an example, for the lolz.


Paramore – After Laughter

released May 12, 2017
******** 8/10

Paramore are an American rock band. Led by vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and drummer Zac Farro, they have seen more than their fair share of lineup changes over a thirteen year career. Have released five studio albums to-date, After Laughter is their most 80’s influenced and pop rock styled recording. Consider their greatest single Ain’t It Fun – which was released with the fourth album, 2013’s Paramore.

That track was the single greatest predecessor for all of the fun Paramore are having on this latest album.

So what does it sound like you ask? Well, it’s a combination of pop, emo pop, pop rock, alternative rock, and indie rock. So according to that personality test, it means that Paramore are outgoing and nervous, creative and curious, but have low self-esteem.

Apparently this test is working out for me because I would have to agree with all of that. This is a very upbeat and creative album, exploring a ton of different topics includes the oft ignored arenas of mental health and suicide. It’s a more mature vibe and different then what we’ve seen from Paramore on previous outtings, with Hard Times exemplifying the high energy and shift into synth and the odd. Further demonstrated by Rose-Coloured Boy, the track has a pop music tonality, with Williams showcasing her chops to keep the tempo up, but if you listen to the lyrics she is coming from a place of depression and anxiety. It’s chilling really.

Told You So continues in the same fashion, with a sobering outlook on the future and no expectations for more from life. It’s almost as if the bard are using pop music as a vehicle to showcase the challenges in pretending to be happy all the time, when the internal battle is far more difficult and filled with disparaging thoughts.

Forgiveness, Fake Happy, and 26 all channel 1980s movie soundtracks like something that Blondie would have featured in or better yet, Madonna. Before she really went grunge in the 1990s. Forgiveness in particular is quite powerful as a ballad, and easily one of the albums best, especially when paired with Pool, which I think sandwiches that section of the record quite well.

This album really does mark a shift for the band and while the ska and reggae towards the end of the record seemingly come from no where in Caught In The Middle, it’s fucking brilliant. Reminding me of early No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.


Pros: Moving away from their grunge-rock ways was a ballsy move from Paramore, but if anybody has the vocal range to play in the 1980s, its Hayley Williams. And while Idle Worship tells us they might not like themselves anymore, I still think they’re pretty damn cool. *Hugs*

Cons: I don’t really know where No Friend fits in this album, it’s kind of an odd duck, black sheep and red mark on an otherwise perfectly tuned effort. Also kind of slow? And ominous?

Runtime: 43 minutes

Points of Interest: After Laughter marks the return of former drummer Zac Farro to the band, as he recorded drums for the album and officially returned in February 2017 as a full member. Hard Times is the first single and Told You So is the second single.

I’ll admit I didn’t really pay attention to Paramore much when I was younger, which is odd given that they cite certain bands which I personally like as influences – Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Death Cab for Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Thrice and New Found Glory. Plus Hayley Williams takes personal inspiration from the  likes of the Ramones, Blondie and The Cure. For realz. I think John from ARTV said it best by declaring this an album that doesn’t sound like Paramore, but which is a good album nonetheless.

theories Summarized

Paramore are pop punk for the 21st century. They do all of the things that punk music are supposed to do, rhythm, high energy and tackling social issues, while having the fun, heart, and catchiness of pop music. That they’ve been able to transition into other areas of pop music while keeping the messages alive demonstrate their character and willingness to make meaningful music. The kind that makes you laugh heartily.


Mama’s Boy, and Girl (Mother Mother, No Culture review)

We gotta cut the strings sometime baby. We can’t rely on our mothers to coddle us forever, growing up just won’t happen otherwise.

This week’s album review salutes those movers of culture.

Mother Mother – No Culture
released February 10, 2017
******** 8/10


Mother Mother are a Canadian rock group from Vancouver Canada. Yay for Canadian content! Founded by Ryan Guldemond and sister Molly Guldemond when Ryan was in the midst of music school and yearning to start a vocal-driven band that focused on pop. They have released a total of six studio-length albums to-date, four of them with the Last Gang imprint, with the fifth album Very Good Bad Thing and the sixth album No Culture on Universal Music Canada.

I’ve been a fan of Mother Mother since I first saw them live back in 2013 during Sonic Boom at Northlands. They were busy promoting The Sticks, and Infinitesimal was a hot summer track that I loved.

Then came Very Good Bad Thing and more success for the quintet – at this point they were able to climb even higher on the Canadian charts.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that No Culture just might be the album that lands them a no. 1 album in Canada and does some breakout work in the American markets. But now I’ll have to back that up with some insights into the the record, I guess. Well, let’s start with the themes explored. This is the first album that Ryan wrote all on his lonesome with the intent of injecting himself into the mix rather than a persona or general ideas. In fact, it was a solution to his own battle with drugs and alcohol, written while he carved up some time in a cabin in the woods fighting his way back to sobriety.

The album has a strong mix of flow-state songs and anxiety inducing numbers. But it’s incredibly emotionally honest, vulnerable and allows the listener the opportunity to interpret what is being presented as they would like. An exploration of how identity often feels very different in isolation then it does when we are out in the public eye OR rather when we presenting ourselves to the world.


The album features ten tracks which all have that strong vocal-based sensibility, but in particular my personal favourites are Luck Stuck, Baby Boy, No Culture, and Everything Is Happening.

Opener track Free is notable for its strong percussion and anthemic like qualities. Quickly followed up by Love Stuck (the second single) and The Drugs (the first single) which both maintain that stadium quality, very upbeat with sharp hooks and strong vocals.

When we head into the rest of the album it doesn’t maintain this pace, but the intensity shows up in other ways – Back In School is an ode to pop punk, Mouth of the Devil plays with some dark tones and unified vocals, while Family is a sentimental power ballad.

Also title track No Culture is kind of brilliant.

It focuses on the problems which all artists that work against within the realm of pop music face, the challenge of all style-no substance. And the track makes a lot of allusions to scavengers/predators, while exaggerating how Mother Mothers critics view them. It’s definitely a highlight of the album, which makes up for weaker tracks like Letter and Worry. And I say that knowing that Mother Mother are capable of making slower tracks work for them, Everything Is Happening is one of my favourite songs remember? And how could it not be? They make a reference to the cyclical nature of music and David Bowie.

As a means of praise, and in the style of repetition, I’ll simply write this – keep on, keeping on.




As I close up this review, I recall something my first LT partner used to say to me on occasion when she was upset with my decisions, and which I now can see for the gas-lighting techniques that they are, that I made said decisions just to please my mom. She believed that I had no culture of my own, but that’s just not true, and Mother Mother it’s not that way for you. Either.

Sweet Stardust of a Thriller, Boy (The Weeknd, Starboy review)

The synthesizer seems to be back in full force ladies and gentlemen. That desire for quality samples, lossless file compression and physical models seems to be something that most if not all top shelf pop music trend setters are using right now.

But for why?

The Weeknd – Starboy
released November 25, 2016
******* 7/10


Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, known professionally as The Weeknd, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and record producer. The Weeknd got his start by anonymously uploading several songs to YouTube under the pseudonym “The Weeknd,” of all things. At that time he had released three nine-track mixtapes throughout 2011: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. Which surprisingly enough to many critics at the time, were received quite well. In 2012 he decided to release a compilation album known as Trilogy, effectively the remastered mixtapes he had released before but with three additional tracks and totally thirty songs alotogether. It was released under Republic Records and his own label XO.

In 2013 he released his first studio-length album Kiss Land, which featured the singles Kiss Land and Live For. But it was his second album, Beauty Behind the Madness that really charted his success. This is where Earned It, The Hills, and Can’t Feel My Face factor in. Fun fact, these songs made him the first artist to simultaneously hold the top three spots of the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart. The Weeknd has also won two Grammy’s and been nominated for an Academy Award.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s Canadian? Yeah Canadian content!

But what about Starboy? Well, look what you’ve done… I’m a motherfuckin’ starboy.

This record starts off quite strong, Starboy, Party Monster, and False Alarm in particular hold your attention with their commitment to the beats The Weeknd and his team of production engineers are famous for. After all, we know he isn’t doing this all on his lonesome. Which reminds me, I think that Stargirl might be the most fascinating interlude/intermission I’ve heard in years. Lana Del Rey is excellent as the female foil to The Weeknd, and she manages enough tension to keep the pace of the record, at least for a little while.

Now let’s consider the album as a whole for a moment. I have this rather wild theory that The Weeknd might not have had as much time with this project as he would have liked. He’s known for his ability to construct strong narrative levelled projects, I’m looking at you Trilogy.

And while Starboy (the album, not the song) is mostly about The Weeknd’s relationship with a woman, that message doesn’t easily come through. The collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on Sidewalks for instance, is kinda cool, but feels out of place, if I’m being really honest. Also am I crazy for hearing Michael Jackson AND David Bowie when I listen to his voice long enough?

Probably not, because The Weeknd is more than capable of floating between pop, rap, R&B, disco and electronica. Hell, he can even do 1980s pop justice. Maybe that’s where the deceased pop stars come in…

And while The Weeknd has en endearingly dark and uniquely hedonistic voice in the realm of music, it can be a bit much to stomach his lyrics against those typical pop structures. That, and as I mentioned already, the narrative doesn’t feel as tight on this album. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye is more than capable of being a motherfuckin’ starboy and he knows it, but this album isn’t him at his best.




I have this theory that analog synthesizers went out and digital synthesizers came in because they were cheaper, but nowadays that isn’t really a motivating factor for musicians.

However, the variety of sounds that digital synth offers feels unrivalled in many cases. And when an artist is capable of spreading their music talent across several genres, employing synthesizers to craft that sounds seems like a natural fit. The Weeknd gets this, and when he spends his time on both production and telling a strong story, it makes all the difference. Starboy might not be the greatest, but The Weeknd sure is a star boy.