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Category Archive for 'Rock/Pop'

Bette Midler: It’s the Girls!

“Bette Midler’s 2014 effort, It’s the Girls!, finds the legendary vocalist paying homage to female girl groups from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Never one to be underestimated, however, Midler also brings the homage full circle with a reworking of TLC’s 1995 R&B hit ‘Waterfalls.’ Midler’s 14th studio album and 25th album overall, It’s the [...]

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Simple Minds: Big Music

“Big Music finds Simple Minds coming full circle — going all the way back to 1979 for inspiration. They’ve rediscovered the urgent, keyboard-driven post-punk futurism of recordings such as Empires and Dance and Sons and Fascination. Rather than try to merely re-create them, they’ve integrated them with the more guitar-centric classicism of New Gold Dream, [...]

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Maroon 5: V

“…the vibe shifts slightly back to the soulful pop that’s remained at Maroon 5′s core since the beginning, here given an ever so slight maturation to balance the modern moves heard on the rest of the record. Sometimes, the group achieves a delicate balance between the two extremes — ‘It Was Always You,’ ‘New Love,’ [...]

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Mogwai: Rave Tapes

“As impressive as Rave Tapes’ rockers are, the album’s heart lies in subtler tracks like ‘Heard About You Last Night,’ a dreamy prelude that makes the most of the delicacy Mogwai has excelled at since their early days. Similarly, the quietly anthemic ‘Blues Hour’ and vocoder-driven ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ hark back to [...]

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Joe Henry: Invisible Hour

“Joe Henry has always had a knack for excellent wordplay and knows how to find great sounds and conjure great performances in the studio, but Invisible Hour is most impressive in how spare it is; there is almost nothing here that doesn’t help set the mood or move the songs forward, and in this elegant [...]

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“The reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Going Home’ recalls the half-spoken/half-sung delivery (with Brian Eno on backing vocals no less) and places the singer in the place of the subject’s muse, observing him without pity or condemnation. Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ is reinterpreted through the Weimar Republic’s cabaret musical vocabulary, too: [...]

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Garth Brooks: Man Against Machine

“From its beefy arena rock arrangements to its preponderance of power ballads, this is an album constructed from remnants of the golden age of the diamond album, a cross-demographical blockbuster that’s now a bit of accidental narrowcasting. This is for audiences who wish they made country records like they used to — not when Hank, [...]

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Stromae: Racine Carree

“At first look, Stromae’s pumping Euro-disco with a dash of hip-hop and world music may seem fairly indistinguishable from offerings by many others artists on the Continent. As incongruous as it sounds, what sets Stromae apart from his peers are actually his lyrics — something that you do not hear too often (read: never) when [...]

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Benjamin Booker: Benjamin Booker

“As soon as Benjamin Booker’s eponymous 2014 debut kicks in with a skittish guitar run and a primal garage beat, it’s clear the guitarist — a native of Tampa Bay who spent time in New Orleans before heading back to Florida — is unapologetic for the debt he owes to Jack White. Like the Black [...]

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Cracker: Berkeley to Bakersfield

“The Bakersfield tunes are the purest country music Cracker have released to date, with a rich dose of twangy soul that doesn’t negate the frequent seriousness of the lyrics as Lowery’s high-attitude vocals blend with Matt ‘Pistol’ Stoessel’s pedal steel and Luke Moeller’s fiddle. And the rock tunes sound sharp and muscular, with guitarist Johnny [...]

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Colbie Caillat: Gypsy Heart

“Four albums in, Colbie Caillat decided it was time for a cool change. The singer/songwriter remains quintessentially Southern Californian — her spirit is sunny, her melodies breezy — but she no longer dresses her songs in beachwear. She’s ditched the peasant skirts for stylish black dresses; she’s no longer strumming an acoustic guitar; she’s singing [...]

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“…Billy doesn’t really throw himself into autobiography here, preferring to merely write from the perspective of an old punk rocker on the verge of senior citizenship. Frankly, that’s enough to give Kings & Queen of the Underground character if not quite a kick. Idol may be posturing — that’s what he does for a living, [...]

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She & Him: Classics

“While the release of another standards album doesn’t always elicit cries of celebration, some artists are perfectly suited to such a task. Taking a romp around their own bailiwick is a breeze for pop classicists like She & Him, who offer up this platter of elegantly conceived cover songs that resembles the very source material [...]

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Neil Young: Storytone

“…Storytone is fairly messy — which is quite an achievement for an album recorded in large part live in front of a full orchestra. Young does indeed croon over those strings, often rhapsodizing about the powers of new love or pleading to save the Earth, although he sometimes gets restless and rolls out a swinging [...]

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“While much of Springtime Carnivore walks in a Twilight Zone between indie pop and clever appropriations of the past, Morgan does manage to reveal a personality of her own over the course of these 14 tracks, and she comes off as clever, confident, and a sure hand with a tune on this set, while her [...]

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Billy Joel: The Essential Billy Joel

“…for the most part, this has every one of Joel’s heavy-hitters, and his craftsmanship, both as a songsmith and record maker, has never shone brighter. The biggest fault is that there is a notable drop-off in quality after 1986′s The Bridge (which ends midway through disc two), but even so, this is as good a [...]

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Birdy: Fire Within

“While the songs on Fire Within display vocal maturity beyond her young years, Birdy’s lyrics don’t stray far from the same emotions as every other 17-year-old — love, broken hearts, confusion — and this honesty feels natural and sincere without becoming cliché. With a flurry of teen internet sensations — singers such as Gabrielle Aplin [...]

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Hozier: Hozier

“The album’s best tracks, like the warm, laid-back ‘Someone New’ and the grandiose shuffling of ‘From Eden’ are all front loaded in the first half, while side two feels a bit weighed down with a few too many slow, contemplative pieces. When you’re dealing with the kind of spells Hozier is casting, it’s always best [...]

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Charli XCX: Sucker

“On Sucker, she (XCX) keeps more of that hit-making swagger for herself, delivering attention-getting pop that’s bold enough to ensure she isn’t overshadowed by anybody. She makes her purpose clear with the album’s title track, a musical middle finger to the clueless set to revved-up synths and stabbing guitars. It’s a big change from the [...]

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Ed Sheeran: X

“It’s a little glib to call Ed Sheeran the U.K.’s answer to Jason Mraz, yet there’s a grain of truth in that statement. Like Mraz, Sheeran plays around with hip-hop cadences but at his core he’s a singer/songwriter, and a sensitive one at that, one who prefers love tunes to songs of protest, something that [...]

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