iTunes Entertainment Weekly - Music

4/13/2012 5:09:51 PM

One Direction

Description: One Direction

One Direction got their start by auditioning for the popular British reality singing competition The X Factor. The band, which consists of members: Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan, went far into the contest but eventually finished in third place. However, the show's creator, Simon Cowell, took notice of the group's unique sound and talents and signed them to his personal label Syco Records. The team is heavily pop inspired and is probably best described as a “boy band” That doesn't mean that most of their songs are written or performed in the traditional boy band manner. This group has its own specific sound that carries a modernized "alternative flair." One Direction released its debut album in 2011 titled Up All Night. The collection skyrocketed in popularity and peaked at the number two position on the UK Albums Chart. After seeing their success, Columbia Records reached out to the group and brought their talents stateside. Up All Night is now available in the United States and also contains one song that was rewritten specifically for an American release. This album contains 13 songs but sadly does not have a digital booklet or any bonus content.

The collection starts out with the band's hit single, "What Makes You Beautiful". This cut is vocally driven and catchy harmonies dominate background instrumentals. Upbeat synthesizers, fast paced drums, and guitar riffs undertone everything. This is a very "feel good" and entrancing pop sound and is the type of mix that will make you want to get up and dance. "One Thing" keeps the party going with its heavy and patterned drum line paired with funky sounding guitars. The harmonies once again reign supreme here and this score really helps to showcase the group's vocal range and abilities. The band has a softer-side too, as presented in "More Than This". This lyrically powerful song has a softer vocal tone to it. These arias are underlined by sweet sounding synthesizers and a subtle yet poignant drum beat. This mix carries a techno styling with it, making it a very unique pop ballad.

Description: One Direction

One Direction is becoming a driving force in the genre of pop. Their unique and energetic sound is refreshing and most of their songs are catchy. The band has already found success in the United Kingdom and the recent release of Up All Night in the United States is increasing their popularity world-wide. Users on iTunes are flooding the album with good praise and positive comments. If you are looking for a "boy band" with an uncommon twist then give this album a try.


Epica is a well-known symphonic metal band from the Netherlands. The group has been around since 2002 and has produced five albums. Epica is the brain-child of Mark Jensen, who created the band after he cut ties with the group Ever After. He is joined by Coen Janssen, Simone Simons, Isaac Delahaye, Arien Van Weesenbeck, and Yves Huts. All six members of the band collaborate on their instrumentals, but Simone Simons and Mark Jensen are responsible for the bulk of the group's vocals and lyrics. Epica has been labeled as a "gothic-meta!" band, but most of their songs are off the traditional beaten path. Their ability to pair operatic female vocals with dark and foreboding male snarls has set them apart from the rest of the genre. These powerful voices are accompanied by a multitude of orchestral instruments, ranging from violins and xylophones to electric guitars. Their newest collection is entitled Requiem for the Indifferent. The iTunes album is comprised of 15 total tracks, two bonus tracks, and comes complete with a digital booklet.

Description: EPICA

The ensemble starts off with the track "Karma". This short but powerful song displays a mass of different instruments, underlined by haunting male and female vocalists. Karma bleeds seamlessly into the next song, "Monopoly on Truth". Hard sounding electric guitars are paired with a fast paced, booming drum line. Simone Simons and Mark Jensen both display their vocal ranges here as they alternate lyrical sections. This score reminds me of an up-tempo, hardcore metal opera. It isn't all hardcore metal though; Epica still manages to provide fans with some serene, lyrically pleasing arias, as apparent in the title "Avalanche". This song starts with a very airy sounding music box that is quickly accompanied by a group of soft string instruments. Simone chimes in with strong and haunting vocals. The song picks up speed as a gentle patterned drum beat rises up. A personal favorite of mine, "Nostalgia" kicks things up with some slick electric guitar playing. Strings, bass, and drums all come together to produce a very nice harmony. These become second to the vocals though, which carry a very heavy opera styling.

Epica is a big contender in the world of operatic-metal and they seem to get better with each album they release. Requiem for the Indifferent is receiving a lot of hype and positive comments from iTunes users. The low price and high song count make this collection a great deal. I would recommend this album to anyone who enjoys the symphonic-metal genre but wants something with a little more operatic elegance.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists are a five-piece Portland, Oregon native band with the members: Colin Meloy (Lead Vocals), Chris Funk (Guitar), Jenny Conlee (Organ, Accordion, Multi-Instrumentalist), Nate Query (Bass Guitar and String Bass), and John Moen (Drums, Backing Vocals, Melodic Guitar). The Decemberists are labeled as a “folk alternative band” and are the epitome of unique. Their music styling changes with each song, and their albums are usually a very electic mix of cultural sounds. The band draws influences from folk tales and some of their tracks tell stories and reflect on some of the more prominent legends of folktales. As far as their sound goes, it is hard to “relate” them to any specific band. Colin Meloy has a powerful, unique voice and his band mates play a variety of unexpected instruments with ease. Their newest collection is titled We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Live Songs). This album contains different tracks that the band played live between the months of April and August, 2011. This is the seventh collection in the band’s discography and contains a large variety of songs from their previous anthologies. We All Raise Our Voices to the Air has 20 songs, but doesn’t come with a digital booklet or bonus content.

Description: The Decemberists

The album starts out with the track “The Infanta”. This piece revolves around an “infanta”, defined as the daughter of a Spanish king. The lyric boast an impressive vocabulary and the instrumentals are very diverse. Although there is a flair of Spanish harmony, this song is dominated by an organ and piano. “We Both Go Down Together” is one of the band’s more prominent score. This song is the embodiment of folk. Pianos and string instruments are under-laden by an organ and a sweet sounding violin. Colin Meloy displays a great amount of vocal range here. "Down By the Water" feels like a classic rock song, with the soulful sound of a harmonica and electric guitar. "The Mariner's Revenge Song is a vastly entertaining and immersive tale about a young boy who seeks revenge on a man who has done his mother wrong. The audience interacts with this song and it really has that "live” feeling to it. Accordions and melodic guitars combine here with a powerful drum line. Colin Meloy really shines and the vocals are amazing.

The Decemberists are a joy to listen to and are really entertaining. Their live album is receiving great reviews from iTunes users as well. The collection is a true value as it contains so many songs from the band's discography over the years and includes some of their best hits. I would definitely suggest giving this album a chance.

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