Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Album Review: Frankmusik's "Complete Me"
Complete Me is a brilliant album.
I'm pretty confident when I say this because I wrote the original review for this in February lol... and I like the album even better now than when I first wrote the review! In the many months since I first got to hear it I've just become more and more sure of it's ability to stand up against other classic albums of this decade.
My opinions have changed some since the first "write up"... so you're going to be getting a very in depth review here as I feel this album deserves close examination to justify my designation of "brilliant". We're going to start at the beginning and go through every track until the end.
However, now I have to change the order this was written in due to changes in track listing... I might as well give you guys the goods at the front of the post. One of Arcadia's favourite blogs Discodust just posted this a couple of days ago so all the credit goes to Aleks and friends!
Frankmusik- "Confusion Girl (Russ Chimes Remix)"
FIRST OFF... I'm pleased, but surprised that "In Step" made it onto the album! This song has been around for eons so I don't really feel the need to review it at all. The Island/Universal made a smart move releasing this quite a while ago as the "warm up single" to introduce people to Frankmusik although I would NOT be surprised if they released it again...
"Better Off As Two" is another brilliant single. You'd assume at this point he's front-loading the album because the b-side (for those of us who prefer to listen to black spinning discs) is shit. But you'd be very wrong. I don't need to stress how good this song is... you've no doubt heard it and if you haven't I'll put the video (also brilliant) below. It's worth noting that this is a different version than the 3 Little Words EP in case you didn't know that.
"Boyfriend" is a rockier number than the one you've heard so far. It's as great as you remember but better. There had been two versions of this (that were obviously different mixes to be picked from for the album) that sounded pretty similar, and this final version sounds like both of those put together. It's kind of hard to review these songs because they were already on Frankisum... and you really need to hear that EP in order to understand the progression to the new version... otherwise I'm rehashing something a lot of people have heard.
"Confusion Girl" very different from what I had expected. The original Frankisum version is frenetic because of it's 4/4 beat. This version goes half time on the drums and substitutes the synths for more of a breakbeat vs acoustic guitar feel. Maybe that's a shit way to describe it but that's essentially what it is. There was a version that played both those elements up more but it makes more sense in the final where the layers don't draw too much attention away from Vince's vocals. I was wondering which version would make it to the album as a "new mix" with a 4/4 beat was lying around... once again, refer to Frankisum to get a better feel for this one. This is a hard one to weigh in on... the funny thing is that despite the half timed drums, it's actually faster than the other versions. On that note, it's probably worth noting that there are only 3 songs that go over the 3:00 mark, and only one of those is over 4 mins. This means the album clocks in at about 40 minutes.
"Your Boy" is the first ballad of the album and is nothing short of fucking amazing. Pianos, synths, soaring chrous. When he starts singing "I'm sorry, I'm trying to change my past/Can you give me just one more minute?" his pleading is so emphatic that you feel strongly this is a man writing about his own experiences. And it's these songs that, again, show his versatility and growth. He could go toe to toe with Coldplay with these songs... while the songs you heard on Frankisum all feel like potential singles, these new ballad songs could too. Which is sort of dizzying because... how many potential singles can you have on an album? So far every song on this album is single worthy. Even the original demo "To Delta" showed that this song was a powerhouse in waiting, and the final product doesn't disappoint. Probably my 2nd favourite song on the album...
"When You're Around" is, of course, an interpolation of The Stranglers "Golden Brown" (a song about heroin, which this song is most definitely NOT about). You've probably seen this on the various interwebs as the Boys Noize remix... well here's the deal with that (and correct me if I'm wrong)... at one point Alex (Boys Noize) was helping MIX the song, as opposed to remix, and somehow all the credit landed on his shoulders. In all actuality this song has been kicking around since Frankmusik's inital offering of demos... the album version gets a major overhaul because I think Frankmusik knew that releasing the same version that's been around forever wasn't going to work. Frankly? I got sick of this song... to the point where I couldn't listen to it at all... but this new version has really put wind the wind in the sails again. Check out the Frankmusik directed video for the previous version!
SPEAKING OF DIFFERENT VERSIONS... "3 Little Words" was an instant classic when it came out over a year ago. And while the the Atari-like speedy synths (I think that song has about a 174 bpm) of the original were awesome, the Stuart Price assisted (see Zoot Woman, Les Rhythmes Digitales, Thin White Duke, Jaques Lu Cont) version is a good example of how two bright minds can turn something perfect into something perfect that everyone will enjoy (the original may not have been able to gain a crossover audience, but the new one doesn't make any sacrifices in quality). It is strange to hear a song go through key changes, tempo changes, multiple versions and still sound as good as the first time you heard it. Think about it... most artists would muck up their own material if they messed around with it that much... Here's the old video version in case you hadn't heard it before...
"Wonder Woman", brings up an interesting topic on the album, women who never give themselves are break and can't let themselves get the relaxation/pleasure out of life they deserve! Too many of those these days :) It's a song for strong women but also a reminder even the most hardcore people need to take a break. It's a nice bouncy song that doesn't seem like a single, to me, but that's actually the nice part :) Not every song should be a single, or potentially a single, that takes the enjoyment out of the album because then it doesn't create fans... it creates people who but lots of ringtones. No doubt people will suggest this as a single but I think, instead, it's a welcome change of pace.
Finally we land on "Complete Me", the albums namesake. The first time I heard this song I lost track of everything I was doing. It starts out with gentle piano, that suddenly changes with him quietly singing "Is this really what we want?/Is this really what we need?/Six million staring at their feet..." and moments later suddenly it starts taking off with choir like synths. It's so fucking epic but so simple. Then it takes it down a notching with a bubbling scaling rhythmic synth under the piano, then getting into this very Vangelis like chorus with this major rush. Take it down a notch again, build more, get louder, and give another massive chorus. This song is not just proof for the haters that Vincent Frank is more than someone who "has potential" (random Vice writer I'm leering at you), it's shows he's maturing with his song writing. Not only can he write these killer singles, but he can write songs whose greatness is hard to deny if you have ears. This song could end up being very important to a generation of people who have grown up watching their ideal, of how the world worked, collapse right in front of them. Again, it seems the more ballad-ish songs are my favs on this album because this song, with it's Vangelis "Chariots Of Fire" drums, is probably my third favourite.
Now we arrive at "Vacant Heart", a total fan favourite. If you haven't heard it, it's a poppy but pained love song, highlighting more of his so-called 80's influence (which is lazy journalism me even TYPING that). I like this song? But my feelings about it change a lot. The lyrics on the chorus may be the weakest on the album, WHICH ISN'T TO SAY this song is bad... it's just... if you line up 13 diamonds and one has a slight smudge? Well you get the picture. Personally I would have put "That Much Is True" or something like that on instead but? This one made the cut, and I will say that the minor changes in lyrics and instrumentation relieve some of the repetitious qualities that were bogging this song down.
"Done Done" originally appeared on the Heaths Of Thornton website as part of a free EP (p.s. that site doesn't exist anymore). There isn't much difference? Other than maybe quality and mastering. One of the best lines here is "Did you get a new me? Or something not quite the same?"... and "The million times I told, that my story's getting old/Tell me are you better, now that your new life starts to unfold?"... these great lines are reflective of the rest of the album. There is a LOT of questioning going on. After a bad breakup isn't that always the case? You keep asking where things went wrong. Were you in the wrong? Were they in the wrong? Now that time has passed do things seem better than they did before? Are you hurt or hurting? A great deal of the album deals with this. This song is too much on the 'electronica' side to be a single (I mean the chorus is nothing but repetition), but it just radiates heartfelt emotion (a quality that sets Vincent Frank apart from his peers... I don't need to say who because you know who).
And then there's "Time Will Tell". I posted it a couple months because I was sure it wasn't going to make it to the album... ooops! I will admit I used to HATE this song (which is pretty strong but I mean, this guy has difficulty writing bad songs) but the original made me very very confused because there was something lacking. Frankmusik again has taken a close look at this songs and has recognized that something needed to change... in doing this he rescued a song that I easily wouldn't have given a second chance on a personal listening level (I mean I'd listen to it to review this album but not on my own time). It's the super singles, and the ballads, and the slightly tweaked "non-singles" that add up to a five star album.
Now we come to my favourite by far. "Run Away From Trouble" is lyrically the most sparse but perhaps the most emotionally moving song on the album. The first round version of this song had little hints of dubstep because of it's lurching tempo (so slow it's almost fast like dubstep) and a couple sounds he used that reminded me of Various Productions. If the version I'm listening to is the final (and come on people, you know these things go through like a million little revisions before making it onto a physical copy) it drops some of the original sounds and expands the ending with strings, and a new synth part at the end. The phasing on the drums and the whirling whirring noises makes me want to remix the fuck outta this lol...
It's important to mention to people who are freaking out about the tracklisting change that the nothing short of brilliant "Olivia" is a hidden track on the album. If the other songs were emotive, and a great deal of them will appeal to young people reflecting on their past/present relationships, this is a song for the completely broken hearted. It's a piano track, that's quite sparse... that's what makes this song. I'm gonna have someone kick me in the balls for this but... it's as good as Fiona Apple at her best. It's a song about familiarity and (seemingly) conflicting emotions. One of the highlights of the song is "I know I lost you in my head/There's no more waking next to you in my bed/As the pillow turns to stone instead". I mean, if this song doesn't make your eyes mist a little, then you've probably never been in love with anyone. And if it doesn't make your heart hurt a little, well, then you probably hated the whole album lol. Because in order to understand the album as a whole, you have to understand this song (IMHO).
EDIT: It was brought to my attention that "My Mind" made it onto the iTunes version of the album so it's worth reviewing that as well...
"My Mind" was one of the best previously unreleased songs that Frankmusik had done. This final version sounds like a "complete" version of the earlier rougher (SP Mix) which, in it's own right, was nearly perfect. The song details his possessive feelings but inability to bring them to fruition shown in lines like "Does it come to this/ You I'll never kiss/ Or romanticize it/ How I've missed/ All of these things/ We'll never do/ When I've gone and broken us all in two". Of course if you weren't paying attention to the lyrics, and just listening to the chorus, you'd think it was a nice peppy love song with some "Blue Monday" style drums hiding underneath the surface. "My Mind" hints at the HUGE cache of songs that Vincent Frank is still sitting on... if his record company would let him he could release another 5 star album before the end of the year.
My final review? Vincent Frank has crafted an album that in uncompromising, jubilant, heartbreaking, and almost peerless in it's electro-pop perfection... and the reason it will succeed in a major way is that this young man has literally put his heart and his fears on a platter, wrapped it up in danceable melodies that will never leave your head, and created one of the first true original pop records of a decade coming to a close... which leads me to believe the next decade may have us seeing a lot more
A lot of people have paved the way but there's his truly unique style will set him apart from any real dead on comparisons. When I interviewed him last March, after mentioning that Peter Robinson mentioned him in an NME column and I proposed he may be leading a new pop movement he said, "If I am starting a new movement or the media grasp onto something then great but I really could not give a dandelion due to the fact that it means that I am only going to have to change my style again to rebel against another journalistic label." His own description of his music, "Blade Runner pop", is probably the most accurate... expansive, futuristic, self aware, a sleek hodgepodge, and like the movie itself a definitive piece of work that doesn't fit into a genre. This innate inability to conform, and the drive to do only what his heart tells him to, will ensure that both Complete Me (and his future efforts) will make a significant impact on the world.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND ACTUALLY BUY THE ALBUM! The guy has put loads of free songs on the internet and if you appreciate what he's doing you've gotta help him keep going by purchasing this. I'm not gonna rant this time. Just do it. They have some cool bundle specials over at the official store at Frankmusik.com.
If you are looking for unreleased Frankmusik here are some suggestions.
Here's some suggestions:
"Shoot The Breeze"
"So Keep Telling Yo Self"
And here's my favourite unreleased ones:
"Waste Of Time"
"That Much Is True"
And then the free EP's Brushing Off and Chasing Shadows...
Brushing Off consists of:
"Missing You (Everything But The Girl Cover)"
And Chasing Shadows is:
"Bad Ass Each Other"
"Ice Box (Omarion Cover)"
"Run Away From Trouble"
Thanks for stopping by, I'll be back soon...