Tove Lo - Lady Wood

When Tove Lo came out of nowhere in 2014, she took the pop world by storm. Two years later, her sophomore record Lady Wood is out to do just the same.

Lady Wood shows a maturity of sound in Tove Lo; the poppier sensibility of Queen Of The Clouds is gone and replaced with more personal, evocative music. What remains is the flawless sense of melody that she has; nearly every track has a captivating melody that is often times elevated by atmospheric instrumentals; 'True Disaster' is an early example, the bouncing bass synths pound below Lo's dramatic vocals as the chorus introduces dreamier, smoother melodies, each reiteration adding harmonies that build on top of each other to create one climactic, sensual final chorus.

The radio pop sensibility isn't completely lost, though. The single appeal of 'Influence' is almost palpable, the badass yet subtle vocal line screaming sexual desire: "You know I'm under the influence / So don't trust every word I say / When I'm under the influence / It's a blur, but I want my way," her being under the influence of lust. Wiz Khalifa features for that extra flair, his verse elaborating on the club scene and how easy it is to pick someone up by being natural (for him, sure). 'Cool Girl' has wobbly synths and a brooding synth that bassily supports the track with more badass delivery, the swagger of Tove Lo's vocal being supported by the bouncing, epic synths in the chorus while she warns, "I'm a cool girl / Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you, boy."

You really come to appreciate that this album isn't written to be something for radio success. That's just a convenient by-product of the record. Not pigeonholing herself to one sound that would offer easy success allows for some fantastic songs, like the infectious 'Vibes,' the beautiful acoustic guitar line in the verses serving as support for Tove Lo and Joe Janiak's verses. The choruses are filled with cavernous bass and slightly distorted vocal lines like BANKS's signature. The end of the song comes to a brilliant duet between Lo and Janiak, making you wish that was more prominent in the song without taking away from its quality. Beautiful harmonies are the signature of 'Imaginary Friends' and its slowly expanding choruses. The energetic synths dance innocently above the groovy beat and atmospheric soundscape. The climax of the fantastic instrumental of 'Flashes' results in an epic, confident moment towards the end of the record before 'WTF Love Is' takes the record out on a groovy, albeit a bit underwhelming ending.

Tove Lo really stepped up her game on Lady Wood. She always came off as an artist who really didn't care about the standard as much as she did the message of her art, and that's always worth much respect. She took risks in this record and they definitely paid off for her. Lady Wood is a great record all around with few, if any, dull moments, and that's a big statement to make for a pop artist with such a reputation. It's full of desire and a lack of satisfaction, but in the sense that these are things she searches for rather than things she lets take over her - it's normally the latter for most artists who sing about it. She knows how to sing and what to sing to get her point across, and that's true talent. I already can't wait for the next record.

Favorite Tracks: Vibes, Imaginary Friend, Cool Girl, Flashes

Least Favorite Tracks: WTF Love Is, Lady Wood

Rating: 86 / 100

Nick Jonas - Last Year Was Complicated

Nick Jonas has hopped on the going-solo boat. His new record Last Year Was Complicated is interesting - it's not what you'd expect for him, but it doesn't fully shy away from being a standard pop record. Infectious grooves here and there carry the record to its end, but after the first few songs it mellows out.

This album has a good chunk of highlights in it that bring it success. The first track 'Voodoo' is my favorite song on the record - I'm a sucker for songs with Middle Eastern vibes. Jonas' melodies during the choruses are fantastic with fantastic harmonies backing it. The theatrics of the song beg for grand live production, the thrilling percussion and layers of vocals make this song so groovy and such a standout from the rest, it's hard to beat a song like this. Melody carries the song 'Under You', the vocals in the bridge being particularly fantastic. The effected vocals add a lot of flavor to an already colorful instrumental. Some songs like single 'Champagne Problems' just ooze pop appeal, infectious hooks on top of deep beats being on the dance vibe and make the song a big hit. Among the guest spots on the album is Tove Lo in 'Close', where her contribution makes the song a great experience - her duet with Nick in the bridge is brilliant. There are little elements in many songs that also give a fresh taste, such as the groovy guitar parts in 'Touch'.

This is about as much credit as this album can get, though. Outside of these few tracks, the album is a very standard listen. Some songs lack any niche, tracks like 'The Difference' sounding like any other pop song. Some guest spots are wasted, Big Sean being placed in the throwaway track 'Good Girls' and Ty Dolla $ign in the strange 'Bacon'. Other songs have elements to them that bring them down as a whole, while the rest of the song may be fine. A prime example of this is 'Don't Make Me Choose', a good song with a good hook but an utterly cringeworthy chorus, the line "Don't make me choose between my left hand and my right" ruining the whole sentiment of the song. There's no substance after the record's beginning. There a few flashes of creativity hidden few and far between the tracks, but the negatives unfortunately outweigh the majority of the album.

Last Year Was Complicated isn't a failure, but it isn't quite a success either. The album begins triumphantly and perfectly, with a lot of original flair and color to it. The rest of the album unfortunately sinks into a hole of standard pop music that is easy to forget. There's nothing separating a good chunk of the album from any other pop song on the radio, and that really brings the album down after a fantastic beginning. Nick Jonas needs to build off the abilities he showcased at the start of the record when he goes about recording his next album - potential exists.

Favorite Tracks: Voodoo, Under You, Champagne Problems

Least Favorite Tracks: Bacon, Good Girls, The Difference

Rating: 6.5/10