This Week's Music: Karmin and Christon Gray

Pulses by Karmin:

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“I don’t really care if you call me corny,” raps Nicholas Louis Noonan on “Drifter,” one of the various songs included in Pulses, almost all of which range from mediocre to irritating.

Listeners will find it almost impossible to avoid calling this debut album corny, as Amy Renee Heidmen raps, “You’d bet I totes believed her, yeah every word she said. Thought he was gluten-free but, all that I got was bread” on “Acapella.” It delivers a semi-catchy chorus, but the meant-to-be-funny lyrics and her irksome decision to sing a fake and annoying falsetto pretty much wrecks its chances of longevity.

Pulses can’t quite decide where it wants to go as an album, or if it even has a destination in mind. It touches pop, rap, electronic and a bit of dubstep, yet nothing sounds like their own. Even tracks like “Neon Love” that could have been good, sound like they have been overproduced.

Listening through the album exposes the lack of substantial lyrics and the songs never really reach a point higher than above average. One of these better songs is “Gasoline,” hitting a bit of reggae that actually works for the most part.

The groovy “I Want It All” track also sounds pretty good, even when it doesn’t follow the same style as most of the album. Pulses probably should have stayed within the exploration of this style of music.

Karmin rose up from YouTube stardom based on covers of various songs where they could put their own personal spin on popular music. Their debut album demonstrates the difficulty in transitioning from updating music to creating it.

Suggested Songs: "Gasoline" and "I Want It All"

School of Roses by Christon Gray:

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School of Roses, Christon Gray’s newest album, explores the intricate world of relationships and love. While some artists struggle to retain their audience’s interest while focusing primarily on one topic (especially love), Christon’s versatility and sincerity draws listeners into a romantic, and often intense, journey.

Gray’s range of singing consists of high-pitched vocals, like in the Timberlake-esque “SuperDave,” as well as more filled out, soulful singing in “Roses 101- After All.” The difference in styles also demonstrates how production on the record varies in an effective manner, allowing for different sounds that still sum up to a cohesive album.

His producers also utilize their abilities to manipulate his voice to add even more flexibility, as with the seemingly angelic, yet ultimately dark “Windchaser.” The use of autotune allows for another layer of singing that sections off the song into more than a simple choice between rapping or singing, but instead one that includes singing delivered in different pitches within his vocal range that also can be successfully altered. This particular song showcases his ability to carry a song while solo, taking care of the singing and rapping completely on his own.

The album’s success partly relies on this incorporation of rap, both from Christon as well as features from fellow rappers like Swoope, B Reith and his own brother, Taelor Gray. With such a talent for singing, Gray's ability to rap far surpasses expectations and proves that he truly exemplifies a skilled musician overall, not only in one genre or area.

The collaboration in “Nostalgious,” one of many great songs on the CD, sparks curiosity as to whether an album based more heavily on rap lies in the future.

Pure emotions and unrestricted honesty allow the subject matter to thrive throughout the duration of the album. Christon shares the experiences he knows all too well, realizing that people will relate to them or at least understand his personal narrative.

In “Wanna,” Gray speaks of his battle with cheating, wanting another woman but knowing he shouldn’t. “Convenient” shows a state of love that no one wants, but most have felt – the feeling that the one he loves only keeps him around when she needs him. “Roses 102 – Burning House” seems to circle around a potential divorce or break up, but can easily represent any memory from the past that the listener has had difficulty overcoming, and the struggle to face it and get past it.

Christon speaks about one of his parents leaving him when he was young and his feelings on the matter in “Roses 103 – Ghost.” Listeners will find the intensity of the subject matter at times unsettling, but it will give them a chance to look inward to their own lives in an experience that most music does not incite.

Aside from one or two average tracks, School of Roses uses Christon Gray’s experiences, maturity and talent to make for one of the best R&B, and possibly overall, albums released so far in 2014.

Suggested Songs: "Windchaser," "Wanna," "Vanish," "Roses 101 - After All," Roses 102 - Burning House," "Roses 103 - Ghost," "Moving On," and "Nostalgious"

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