Tom Waits has the kind of voice that might scare the hell out of you if you hear him shouting outside at 3 am under your window, but that’s just part of his towering talent and dark charm. Bad As Me (ANTI-Records) is more than an album; it’s an all-engrossing psychological event.
So many of my fond memories contain Justice: racing around dark rural streets with “We Are Your Friends” blasting, drunken impromptu dance parties to “D.A.N.C.E.,” “Tthhee Ppaarrttyy” singalongs on dancefloors. † was a revolutionary album in mainstream electro-house and will sit on my harddrive till Christ himself returns.
The key word for the new album, Ceremonials, from Florence + The Machine is “anthemic.” This is true in almost every aspect of this disc. Producer Paul Epworth, fresh off creating hits for Adele’s “21” earlier this year, is back at it for Florence and he holds nothing back for these tracks. The album begins with “Only If For A Night” which soars to great heights with its chours and layered backing vocals. Next is the first single from the album, “Shake It Off,” which seems to begin a bit muddled with the an accompanyment of an organ but then breaks into something that would fit into a gospel record with a full choir.
Björk, perhaps the most sophisticated of musical banshees, returns this fall with Biophilia, her latest album since 2007’s Volta. The gimmick for Biophilia is that it’s billed as the world’s first iPad “app album,” meaning that you can buy a matching app for each song on the album. But that’s not all: Björk has promised installations, orange afros and special performances with musical instruments built in her tiny chamber of dreams. These include a gamelan and celesta portmanteau called a Gameleste, as well as a gravitational pendulum harp, and a badass tesla coil bass machine.
Tha Carter brand name has evolved into one of the most bulletproof in rap. Three-plus years, two forgettable albums and one eight-month prison sentence after the release of Tha Carter III, anticipation surrounding Lil’ Wayne’s fourth installation in the series rivals that of any other release in 2011. Tha Carter put Wayne on the map. C2 made him a superstar. And C3 solidified his place as “the best rapper alive” when it dropped. Does C4 see Weezy return to his 2008 Marshawn Lynch-type “beast mode” production?
Lenny Kravitz has always composed outside the box. In 1993, his third studio album asked “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” and listeners largely did: it became his first Top 20 album on the United States Billboard 200. On Black and White America, Kravitz’s ninth studio release (Roadrunner/Atlantic), his skill for mashing styles has been honed to the degree where you can’t tell exactly when within a song the transition happens; you just know the coupling’s happened. And no matter what direction he goes in, you’re usually going to get the best and most authentic parts of what any given style has to offer.
Blake Shelton is an able and accomplished country singer who has been churning out hits since the early 2000s. His single “Honey Bee” is rising up the charts at this writing. With a playful style and charm to burn, Shelton can be a fun listen but ballads seem to bring out his best. It is a testament to the man’s charisma that his fans blast the slightest criticism of his music as if defending a beloved family member or friend. The passion of the defense is on the level of “Leave Britney alone!”” (sobs).
Portugal. The Man’s been around for sometime and I didn’t know a goddamn thing about them till I heard last year’s American Ghetto. To say I was impressed with the band’s funky, rock-the-fuck-out sensibility – which is admittedly very Flaming Lips-esque at times – would shortchange them. “1000 Years” and “All My People” from the album have stuck with me as intense instances of guitar and groovy synth. Last year’s album also occasionally featured choral elements, which was unexpected, peculiar, and ultimately fun; it’s not a new approach of theirs, but it definitely worked best on American Ghetto. I found myself after the first full listen secretly repenting my previous ignorance of their well-crafted and extensive backlog and waited since for their next release, eager to be on top of it all.
Richard Buckner’s compositions can’t be defined under one umbrella term. ”Alt-country” applies well enough, but then the track wanders off the track and becomes a different style entirely, turning corners into unexpected harmonies. On Our Blood (Merge) his lyrical focus is on human experience’s gray and dark side, a thematic odyssey which has punctuated his style since his first release Bloomed in 1994. When you consider the trials Buckner encountered during the making of Our Blood, including a stolen laptop and a legal hassle, it’s fitting that he sounds exhausted here.
Luke Bryan is a perfectly capable country singer with the requisite boyish down-home charm and smiling warmth… though he is also inescapably cookie-cutter in his approach. Tailgates & Tanlines (Capitol) is the Georgia native’s third studio album and he is clearly having a lot of fun on here.
Sly & The Family Stone – I’m Back! Family & Friends : Reviews
You have to love the spirit of legendary psychedelic funk pioneer frontman Sly Stone as most recently celebrated in I’m Back! Family & Friends (Cleopatra). It’s a jam session with musicians from far-flung ends of the genre spectrum who also claim status as fans of Sly and The Family Stone coming to together to funk.