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Tag: Album reviews (1-9 of 9)

Cyndi Lauper's 'She's So Unusual': An everlasting, once in a lifetime album

On the new deluxe 30th anniversary edition of Cyndi Lauper’s debut, the everlastingly saucy supersmash She’s So Unusual, you can hear the “Work in Progress Rough Mix” of “Time After Time,” in which Lauper sings the song the way people have now for years, across the globe: by mumble-humming nonsense syllables until hitting the chorus. Of course, she probably hadn’t finalized (or memorized) the lyrics yet. We just can’t resist picking up that hard-wired melody, even when we need words scrolling across a karaoke screen to nail them.

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Cowboy Troy: Country's most brazen bro returns

What if all the country dudes singing about spring break, pickup trucks, and cheap beer fully embraced hip hop, and not just its swagger? On King of Clubs, out today, Cowboy Troy—the 43-year-old African-American singer-rapper born Troy Lee Coleman III—answers that question like a man shouting from the saddle of a bucking bronco.

It’s not his first time at the rodeo: Troy, a member of the MuzikMafia crew that includes modern-era rebels like Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson, has released four other audacious “hick-hop” albums since 2002. He never had a hit like Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” the 2004 country-rap classic, and maybe never will. “Drink Drank Drunk,” the first single off King of Clubs, features B&R and a white rapper named Big Smo (aren’t there any “lil” MCs in country?), but it never took off with the “mothertruckers” and “Southern belles” it urges to jump around. (It’s gotten less than 6,000 plays on Spotify since last fall.)

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Avril Lavigne's new self-titled album, streaming today: Read EW's review

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Avril Lavigne, Avril Lavigne (Epic)

Avril Lavigne’s twice-married, pushing 30—and speaking for sloppy teens like the Lorax who grabbed the axe. We’re supposed to hope for more from a star releasing her fifth album (which is streaming now on iTunes, a week ahead of its release), never mind one doing it at a time when even music’s biggest brats get folks clucking about high-toned topics like appropriation and blasphemy.

Avril, who turned 29 last month, can’t compete with Miley and Kanye when it comes to making a spectacle of pop spectacle. But the irresistibly zippy, perceptive and, on two (possibly three) occasions, deeply weird Avril Lavigne reminds us that maturity sometimes means doubling down on what’s expected of you—even when that involves rapping about the “motherf—ing cops” on a fleet little song called “Bitchin’ Summer.”

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Down with '00s nostalgia! Up with the Dismemberment Plan!

It’s a columnist’s cliche to say so, but when it comes to unpleasant inevitabilities, nostalgia’s right up there with death and taxes: We know it lies in wait, poised to deny the whatever’s good right about life right now—age and maturity, cool new shit, the Present. But lately it feeds another perspective-sapping distraction: Microtargeted online lists meant to light up little networks of people who share largely meaningless past experiences, like what massive university they attended or chain store they shopped at in high school. That’s what really grinds my gears. Surely there exists a list of Signs You Listened to Emo. And surely we’re fine as a culture having moved on from emo’s heyday, whatever you might think of Fall Out Boy’s punky new album or that song Haley Williams made with Zedd (or the current output of Dischord Records, for that matter). And I say this as an unreconstructed emo boy. READ FULL STORY

Lindi Ortega's 'Tin Star' is the album that country music needs

For a moment, forget about country music’s civil war. Forget about the trucks and the beers and the cliche-riddled writing that’s plaguing the genre. Forget about the fact that breakthrough female stars are about as common as pictures of Kenny Chesney without his hat. Do your best to ignore those sad realities and listen up.

Lindi Ortega has just released her fifth full-length album, Tin Star, and it’s one of the very finest albums of the year in any genre. And in this writer’s opinion, it’s the best country album of 2013.

Who’s Lindi Ortega? She’s a Canadian singer-songwriter (and former backup singer for The Killers’ Brandon Flowers) who’s currently breaking the status quo in Nashville. She’s a red-boot-stompin’ porcelain gypsy with nails dipped in poison and a voice coated in honey. She can cut you open with her fiery rasp and soothe your wounds with a delicate coo. She is fearsome, rebellious, Gothic, and sweet, and her passion courses through her aching melodies. She rips out her voodoo-needled heart and throws it onto the stage for all to see. READ FULL STORY

Pusha T, the Last Great Gangsta Rapper

How gangsta is Pusha T? So gangsta that on his first official solo album, the killer My Name Is My Name, the marvelously menacing Virginia rapper includes a soaring inspirational anthem, “Hold On”—and invites the profoundly unsentimental Rick Ross to join him on it. (Though “[you] couldn’t fathom my wealth/Build a school in Ethiopia/should enroll there myself” may be Ross’s most civic-minded statement yet.) He’s so gangsta that he calls a song that features Chris Brown “Sweet Serenade.” He’s so gangsta that he has Jeezy, a relic of the peak-thug era, rap on “No Regrets.”

Pusha—one half of the sadly dormant coke rap duo Clipse, prolific mixtape and guest rapper and member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music—sums himself up this way on “No Regrets”: “Nowadays I sell hope/what, you rather I sell dope?/What I sell is a lifestyle/naked bitches on sailboats.” That’s “hope” the way Rick Ross can understand it. Pusha remains a deadpan, do-it-to-death thug whose self-awareness never undermines his drug-dealer fairy tales.

Which makes him an exception among the great rappers with recent albums. Danny Brown, who just released the terrific Old, uses meanness as just another one of his masks. Drake surrenders to complexity—he’s tougher on Nothing Was the Same, but still like a boyfriend who’s needy at home and aloof around your friends. On Doris, Earl Sweatshirt is utterly—and engrossingly—cerebral. And then there are the A$APs: image jockey Rocky and the inspiringly weird Ferg. Pusha may be the last gangsta standing—not an anachronistic monolith, but a living, snarling monument to hardcore hip hop.

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Kaskade: A DJ to out-bro all the rest

Kaskade may be the grand exemplar of the ho-hum, euphoria-dealing dudes who monopolize electronic dance music.

Like other top DJs—including Avicii, whose debut album I review this week—he makes a fortune (about $16 million a year) by gigging almost constantly, queueing up dance hits for mobs of party people while doing expressive things with his hands. But unlike Avicii, who on True combines his beats willy-nilly (and not unsuccessfully) with other pop forms, on his tenth album Kaskade distills EDM’s ebb-and-flow pleasure-seeking down to its coolest, most frictionless essence—and enters a terminal space familiar to anyone who has stood in the lobby of a W Hotel.

EDM can claim a long lineage that includes house, disco and many other beloved club idioms, and has percolated in something like its current form for years. (Kaskade, a 42-year-old American house acolyte, has helped keep it cooking.) But EDM is all about creating the illusion that you’re living in the future—a utopia perfectly calibrated to keep lifting your spirits. And in fact, when you’re sweating through your bodypaint at a festival, it’s pretty damn effective at yanking you right into the present, which is plenty for any musical form to accomplish.

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Demi Lovato's new album 'Demi' now streaming online -- read EW's review here

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Demi Lovato sees your early release, Vampire Weekend, and she… well, she doesn’t raise you, she’s just doing it also.

The teen starlet turned hard-knocks graduate and general multimedia juggernaut has put her new album, Demi, online a week in advance of its official May 14 street date. Read our review from the magazine on stands this Friday below.

Demi Lovato, Demi (Hollywood)

Unlike other ex–Disney princesses, Demi Lovato knows that growing up means more than just being old enough to do Jell-O shots. And two years ago, she proved it with her third album, Unbroken, which found her singing about self-cutting and abuse with a bravery that felt very adult. Since then, she’s also proved herself as the most mature judge on The X Factor. (Though, to be fair, Simon “Gonna Wear V-Neck T-Shirts Till I Die” Cowell and Britney “Just Smile Pretty” Spears weren’t major competition.) So it’s too bad that her new album, Demi, sounds like such a decisive return to teen pop. Transformed from an edgier young woman back into America’s sweetheart, she’s doing the fallen-Disney-idol thing in reverse.

Most of Lovato’s musical ­influences aren’t old enough to rent a car. The beach-ball bounce of “Something That We’re Not” could’ve been swiped from a One Direction album, and “Made in the USA” has Miley Cyrus’ name written all over it in lipstick. Worse yet, some lyrics yank back the curtain to expose the older songwriters behind these songs. Why is Lovato asking some guy to “take me home like you’re DiMaggio”? Wasn’t A-Rod available? Even the con­fessionals, like the pretty piano ballad “In Case,” don’t reveal much beyond the usual lovesick-girl struggles. It’s as if some PR rep went through her lyrics with a Sharpie, ­eliminating anything too personal, subbing
in words like “you” and “me” and “baby.” Eventually that Sharpie must’ve crossed out so much, it erased Lovato herself. C+—Melissa Maerz

Best Tracks:
* “Made in the USA”: Soaring Top 40 Pop
* “In Case”: A stripped-down ballad

More on EW.com:
Lauryn Hill sentenced to three months in prison for tax evasion
Justin Bieber accosted by fan on stage in Dubai — VIDEO
Justin Timberlake: Second ’20/20′ album due in September, new tour in October

Twilight Breaking Dawn Pt 2 Soundtrack feat. Green Day, Ellie Goulding, St. Vincent and more -- EW's review

breaking-dawn-2-soundtrack

Various artists
The Twilight Sara: Breaking Dawn—Part 2
Soundtrack (Chop Shop/Atlantic)
Good news, Twihards: Any of these indie-pop songs could be the first dance at your wedding. From the twinkling church bells of Passion Pit’s “Where I Come From” to the Pachabel-inspired violins of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years (Part 2)”—which sounds exactly like the first “A Thousand Years,” except it’s about 500 years longer—there’s one grand-ballroom epic after another.

The mood mostly ranges from ethereal (Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark star Reeve Carney’s “New For You”) to even more ethereal (Ellie Goulding’s “Bittersweet”), but the lovesick vibe only reaches “yuck” level twice: once, when the Boom Circuits serenade “an angel learning how to fly” on the excruciatingly twee “Everything and Nothing,” and again when Twilight actress Nikki Reed harmonizes with her real-life husband, American Idol alum Paul McDonald, on the get-a-room ballad “All I’ve Ever Needed.”

Good thing St Vincent and Green Day drop by to rough things up a bit.The former’s Annie Clark might have the best song on the album with “Antidote,” a sludge-rock anthem that pokes fun at vampire lore. (“I’ll show you where it really hurts,” she coos.) And the latter’s Billie Joe Armstrong manages to turn a stately piano ballad into an awesomely bitter love song. “Where in the world did the time go?” he wonders. Poor Edward Cullen. It’s tough to be 17 for 94 years. B

 

More on EW.com:
Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen, Dirty Projectors and more to play Hurricane Sandy benefit concert in Brooklyn
Rihanna, Katy Perry, Billy Joel, and a hundred others going after Pandora in open letter
Lady Gaga dances around in her underwear for ‘Cake’ video: Watch the teaser here

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