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Kings of Leon ~ Only By The Night
Friday, October 03, 2008 @ 15:53:42 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Kings of Leon

CD Title: Only By The Night (RCA)

Like last year's Because of the Times, Only by the Night is long on astral, arena-ready largeness, with blippy keyboards, droney guitars and whoa-oh-oh backing vocals. Frontman Caleb Followill cranks up his Allman Brothers howl, turning out big choruses with sometimes tough-to-parse lyrics and deep-feeling melodies reportedly influenced by pain meds he began taking after shoulder surgery.
- Christian Hoard, Rolling Stone

In the context of a career arc this level of creativity makes perfect sense. Their sound has had a good five years to grow from post-adolescent indie to full-blown, manly stadium glory. All those U2 support slots have now been fed back into the machine. And, like U2, a timely change of production team (losing Ethan Johns but retaining Angelo Petraglia) brings a new focus.
- Chris Jones, BBC

Where surprises could be found with each previous release to give even casual fans something to appreciate, Only by the Night delivers an even serving of Ritalin coma stadium rock destined to raise their prime age demographic. I can’t see this getting them invited to a UN meeting any time soon, but the Hard Rock Café will surely save them a table.
- Filmore Mescalito Holmes, Pop Matters

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Ne-Yo ~ Year of the Gentleman
Friday, October 03, 2008 @ 15:51:39 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Ne-Yo

CD Title: Year of the Gentleman (Def Jam)

Beyond its genuine lyrics, Gentleman also proves that Ne-Yo is a brilliant pop omnivore, gifted with a silky voice and an ability to pull everything from the Beatles to Stevie Wonder to clubland synths under his sonic umbrella. He plays quick beats off slow vocals on the Stargate-produced "Closer," deploys clarinet and harpsichord on the Seventies-pop "So You Can Cry" and pulls out tinkling piano for "Lie to Me," a real-talk meditation on unfaithfulness.
- Caryn Ganz, Rolling Stone

The Year of the Gentleman is one of those rarities where every song could legitimately be a single. He mines a slow-burning vintage Prince-ly groove for the stunningly effective "Fade Into the Background," especially when paired with the alternate-ending "So You Can Cry." Ne-Yo has gotten so good that he can even pull off "I'm sorry I won't attend your pity party/I'd rather go have calamari" in grand style. That's a sign this is clearly Ne-Yo's Year.
- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

On his third disc in as many years, the 28-year-old Southerner with the Michael Jackson falsetto not only wears his heart on his sleeve, he lets it bleed down his (no doubt high-thread-count) cuff. From the let's-hear-it-for-the-girl paean ''Miss Independent'' to Year of the Gentleman's self-deprecating ''Why Does She Stay,'' he clearly worships at the Church of the Lady Superior. But by the time he hits his stirring finale, ''Stop This World,'' you'll be ready to take him home to Mama.
- Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

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Metallica ~ Death Magnetic
Friday, October 03, 2008 @ 15:49:48 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Metallica

CD Title: Death Magnetic (Warner Brothers)

In the Eighties, thrash metal wasn't a scene, it was an arms race: riffs kept speeding up, drum kits got bigger. But with 1991's Black Album, Metallica opted for unilateral disarmament, slowing their tempos, shortening their songs and smelting their chugging guitars and piston-powered drums into armor-plated pop hooks. After that, the band rushed from one reinvention to another, starting with the Southern-rock infusion of 1996's Load and culminating in the muddled, bizarrely produced group-therapy session of 2003's St. Anger. No longer: Death Magnetic is the musical equivalent of Russia's invasion of Georgia - a sudden act of aggression from a sleeping giant.
- Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone

Death Magnetic enacts the band's process of recovery, using a tried-and-true method: game therapy. Throughout Death Magnetic, the band presents its music as existing in its own space, uninfluenced by fashion or the news, true only to its own rules and pleasures - like a game.
- Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times

Though dubbed Death Magnetic, the album is more of a rebirth, with Metallica exploring the past, but applying what they’ve learned during their 20 years at the top of the heavy metal slagheap, which means more finesse when marking their territory.
- Jaan Uhelszki, Spin

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Jennifer Hudson ~ Jennifer Hudson
Friday, October 03, 2008 @ 15:48:11 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Jennifer Hudson

CD Title: Jennifer Hudson (Arista)

With her Oscar-winning performance in Dreamgirls and roles in movies like Sex and the City and the upcoming The Secret Life of Bees, Jennifer Hudson's singing career had become almost an afterthought. With the release of her formidable, self-titled debut CD, it is now deservedly back in the spotlight.
- Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press

Like Jennifer Holliday before her, Hudson possesses a mighty voice and a sometimes excessively showy style that lends itself more to Broadway than the pop charts. When she reins it all in with the right song, as she does on the smart Ne-Yo-penned first single "Spotlight," Hudson is a charmer. But on the new CD, she gives you far more calculated and overdone bombast than soulful nuance and subtlety
- Rashod D. Ollison, Baltimore Sun

Hudson's meaty voice dovetails well with the tough or mature songs. She's one of R&B's few young singers whose voice has resisted the influence of modern mall culture to retain a sense of place - specifically the South, with its hold on soul. That explains why she also soars on the CD's sole gospel number, "Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There."
- Jim Farber, New York Daily News

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BB King ~ One Kind Favor
Saturday, September 06, 2008 @ 17:39:29 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: B.B. King

CD Title: One Kind Favor (Geffen)

Burnett did not produce a casual club set. The pianist is Dr. John, who - bolstered by Jim Keltner on drums - regularly rolls King’s Mississippi-Memphis blues toward New Orleans, especially with the second-line beat of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” Blues scholars could parse King’s deliberate homages to and divergences from models such as Walker, Big Bill Broonzy and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The album’s pristinely remodeled ambience is no more a purely vintage style than the stereo (rather than mono) recording is. But the ache, the anger, the elegance and the edge of King’s blues are undiminished and authentic.
- Jon Pareles, New York Times / Access Atlanta

On One Kind Favor, King revisits the influential blues of his youth, but don't expect some acoustic front-porch Delta simulation. King, as always, transforms the music, employing his usual urban sophistication. At the same time, there's something special going on here. With producer T Bone Burnett building a bottom end that rumbles like a city bus, King pushes himself hard; no band of hard rockers out there can match the icon's jagged solo on T-Bone Walker's "I Get So Weary." Oh man, is it heavy.
- Justin Farrar, Rhapsody

This isn't just B.B. King's best album in years, it's one of the strongest studio sets of his career, standing alongside classics such as Singin' the Blues and Lucille. Where those early titles highlighted his youthful, wailing vocals and stinging guitar, this one plays to King's current strengths: the tear-stained vibrato of his mature voice, punctuated by raunchy licks.
- Marty Kemp, Rolling Stone

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Brian Wilson ~ That Lucky Old Sun
Saturday, September 06, 2008 @ 17:35:45 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Brian Wilson

CD Title: That Lucky Old Sun (Capitol)

It's by no means an unqualified success: too often, Wilson lets his cornball sensibility get the better of him, most glaringly on "Mexican Girl", whose descent to a tasteless farrago of mariachi horns and Chicano clichés ("Hey bonita muchacha/Don't you know that I wantcha?") is the album's least rewarding aspect. But overall, it's probably better than we could reasonably expect from this most tragically flawed of pop geniuses.
- Andy Gill, The Independent

A series of compact tunes and spoken reveries written by Wilson with Scott Bennett and original Smile lyricist Van Dyke Parks, That Lucky Old Sun is blatantly nostalgic in its pre-acid California dreaming (the title cover was a 1949 hit for Frankie Laine) and echoes of Wilson's early less-troubled bloom: the surf-side doo-wop of "Good Kind of Love," the deep saxes and vibraphone in "Forever She'll Be My Surfer Girl."
- David Fricke, Rolling Stone

Aside from proving he's still got some of the best vocal harmonies around, Wilson's That Lucky Old Sun shows he's a powerful conveyer of images, sparking all the senses with his poetry. The words on the album - written by collaborator Scott Bennett - make it easy to imagine being on Venice Beach watching the homeless, or staring at the smog-drenched skyline of L.A.
- Monica Cady, Live Daily

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The Game ~ LAX
Saturday, September 06, 2008 @ 17:24:19 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: The Game

CD Title: LAX (Interscope)

Oh, the drama! In his short career thus far, Jayceon Taylor has proven a swami of media orchestration: introduced as the protégé of a hip-hop legend; gained notoriety for breaking from said legend and beefing with a certified star by album two; pondered retirement while recording and promoting his third album. Which would be unbearable if he didn't continue to improve as an artist.
- Dan Nishimoto, Prefix Mag

He's not afraid to put his influences out there - sometimes a little too directly, as he gives props to N.W.A. in "State of Emergency" or in his flurry of shout-outs to LeBron James and all things Cali. He's also not afraid to take some risks in his rhymes. "He's leaking like a project sink, busted open like a hot dog link," he spits in "Bulletproof Diaries" with Raekwon.
- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

LAX is an intense and remarkably focused record - almost every syllable concerns Compton, gangsta rap and (as one song title has it) "Game's Pain" - but the minor-key, would-be emotive beats of tracks such as" Money" or the Kanye West-produced "Angel" (featuring rapper Common) don't bring the best out of his expressive flow.
- Angus Batey, The Guardian

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Randy Newman ~ Harps & Angels
Saturday, September 06, 2008 @ 17:06:31 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Randy Newman

CD Title: Harps & Angels (Nonesuch)

Newman works with piano, an orchestra and a Dixieland-style combo, using American musical tradition to amplify irony and yank heartstrings. The best moments echo classics like "Sail Away" and "Louisiana 1927," songs that mixed pathos and bruised patriotism with brutal wit. The set's keystone is "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," released on iTunes last year.
- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

This album will only take up 36 minutes of your time. It'll make you laugh and cry. After all, it's Randy Newman.
- Nick Reynolds, BBC

Randy Newman could have titled his first new studio album in nine years More Songs About Politicians, Dubious Old Men, and Humanity's Ineptitude, but that would have been too obvious. Harps & Angels is a much better title, because, like Newman’s best work, it hides its darkness in phony sunshine - after all, this is the guy who wrote a song from the point of view of a God who gets his kicks watching people suffer. God doesn’t make an appearance here, though the narrator of the title track embellishes his near-death experience to make a good story.
- Zeth Lundy, Boston Phoenix

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Beck ~ Modern Guilt
Saturday, September 06, 2008 @ 17:02:26 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Beck

CD Title: Modern Guilt (Interscope)

Clocking in at just over half an hour in length and containing only 10 songs, this could have been Beck's Contractual Obligation Album (it's his last release for Interscope), but the mercurial performer seems to make interesting and enduring music even when he's not trying very hard.
- Tjames Madison, Live Daily

"Orphans" evokes the freewheeling spirit of the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle; the chug of "Gamma Ray" purrs along an autobahn; "Chemtrails" is an aptly titled puff of spectral Floydisms. On the title track, meanwhile, producer Danger Mouse strikes more production gold, providing the perfect backdrop for one of Beck's most beautiful vocals in years.
- Craig McLean, The Guardian

In the last few years, Beck has freely sailed the seas of electronic and alternative music, but he is now back on land with Modern Guilt, an album that gravitates mostly toward electronic music and that, unfortunately, only has a couple of songs that really stand out ("Modern Guilt," "Orphans"). The problem has nothing to do with the fact that this CD is more electronic than acoustic. The sound is poor, and it sounds as if Beck were actually singing out of a barrel. Also, the beat doesn’t change from one song to the next, and if you don’t listen carefully to each song, you could not tell when tracks change. Despite Beck being one of the most creative and versatile musicians in recent years, the songs of this album have no depth. Let’s just hope that Beck surprises with his next.
- Ernesto Sánchez, Amazon

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Death Cab For Cutie ~ Narrow Stairs
Thursday, June 05, 2008 @ 19:49:33 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Death Cab For Cutie

CD Title: Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)

It's playing against type for a guy with one of rock's purest voices - a vibrato-less, bell-clear high tenor whose choirboy quality only throws the darkness here into relief. "No Sunlight" documents the death of an optimist over a perky New Wave backbeat. The feedback-spiked "Talking Bird" portrays a passive-aggressive lover whose devotion seems tinged with loathing. And "You Can Do Better Than Me" - where a man decides to stay in a troubled relationship "out of fear of dying alone" - comes across as a jaunty, Pet Sounds-style organ-rock stroll. Who knew timpani and sleigh bells could sound so unnerving?
- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone

Narrow Stairs, Death Cab's second album for Atlantic and sixth proper LP overall, is one of the darkest and most muscular in the band's discography, but they're still aiming for the same place: your heart. It's an album about growing and changing and becoming resigned to the fact that you'll never be truly content - not even if you quit that day job, achieve your rock'n'roll dreams, and find yourself in a loving marriage. At times, the maturation feels forced; the more adventurous moments here are experimental only for such a high-profile group, and they don't play to Gibbard's sentimental, word-weighing strengths.
- Marc Hogan, Pitchfork

Narrow Stairs is a markedly different album to its predecessor. Ben Gibbard's distinctive voice is still there, but musically it's a dense, challenging affair with the layered guitars on "Bixby Canyon Bridge" and the discordant piano and bass of single "I Will Possess Your Heart" setting the tone for the whole album. Anyone expecting the lush warmth of Plans may be initially repelled.
- BRowan Collinson, BBC

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3 Doors Down ~ 3 Doors Down
Thursday, June 05, 2008 @ 19:46:56 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: 3 Doors Down

CD Title: 3 Doors Down (Universal)

On their self-titled fourth disc, 3 Doors Down offer the strongest collection of their career, and fortunately separate themselves a bit from the mainstream rock crowd - think Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd for clarity (coincidentally, former drummer Daniel Adair left to join Nickelback and his replacement, Greg Upchurch, is a former member of Puddle of Mudd).
- John Kosik, Associated Press

It's a little hard to tell who 3 Doors Down is on their eponymous release. The album starts out hard with the rocker "Train," but vocalist Brad Arnold comes in with lyrics that are sappy and uncertain of themselves, as though he were taking a stab at vulnerability, but doesn't want to seem "fancy," as they say. The following track, "Citizen/Soldier," stays somewhat more on-message, but that message is a clouded and unspecific jingoism. Without delving into the particularities of a soldier's duties and responsibilities, the exaltation thereof rings a bit hollow. Production for the album is excellent, and musicianship is always pitch-perfect, but a thorough listening to the album leaves us wanting more. If the musicians had struck a wrong note, if Arnold had let the mask slip a little, 3 Doors Down would've sounded more human and been more captivating.
- Marguerite French, UnderGround Online

Great rock bands know how to not only shake listeners with thundering guitars, but also feed their souls with thoughtful lyrics that echo the complexities of the human experience. 3 Doors Down succeeds powerfully on both levels with this brilliant album. The band's fourth studio set is already off to a great start at radio with the hit "It's Not My Time," just one of 12 memorable tracks: "Train" is a hard-edged anthem about escaping to a better life, and "Citizen Soldier," written at the request of the National Guard to be used in promotional spots, is a musically aggressive and lyrically poignant tribute to those serving in the military. Taut musicianship, well-crafted songs and potent vocals make this a landmark album in an already multiplatinum career.
- Deborah Evans Price, Billboard

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Usher ~ Here I Stand
Thursday, June 05, 2008 @ 19:45:01 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Usher

CD Title: Here I Stand (Jive)

It's a thin line between smooth and super-safe, and Usher flops back and forth over it throughout his new album, Here I Stand. He's apparently trying to reconcile his R&B playa-with-a-heart past with his married-and-grown present and it's not totally working out.
- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Here I Stand, which was released in the U.S. on May 27, 2008, is definitely as good - if not better - than his last studio album, 2004's Confessions. Simply put: Usher's in zero danger of losing his mojo.
- Mark Edward Nero, About.com

With strobe synths stuttering beneath sweeping vocals, "Love in this Club" is the sort of soaring club jam that is a definitive summer jam. Nothing else here quite reaches those heights. Second single "Moving Mountains" undercuts Usher's impeccably smooth vocals with barely audible noise churn, reinforcing the lyrics' themes of abandonment, futility and loss. Though, overall, the melodies on Here I Stand are slightly duller than on Confessions, this is very much in line with Usher's previous work, balancing conventional R&B with hip-hop flourishes.
- Sam Chennault, Rhapsody

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Jason Mraz ~ We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
Thursday, June 05, 2008 @ 19:42:59 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: Jason Mraz

CD Title: We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things (Atlantic)

Given the funky guitar, airtight horn punctuations and occasional falsettoed "whoo!," it seems like Mraz has been spending some quality time with MJ's Off the Wall of late. He pulls it off with varying success, alternating the blue-eyed funk pop with coy girl-crazy pap, er, pop and overtly sentimental numbers (grab the Kleenex for "Love for a Child"). The showpiece might be the sunny "Lucky," a duet with the do-no-wrong princess of beach bums, Colbie Caillat.
- Nate Cavalieri, Rhapsody

Mraz strikes a sometimes precarious balance between impassioned love and stolid maturity, and the songs on We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things reflect that, with the equilibrium constantly in flux. Thick horn explosions ramp up the overindulgent points of love while Mraz's trademark "man and a guitar" style remains a focal point of the new album. "Make It Mine" and "Butterfly" both scream radio hit, with their playful glitz somewhat masking the singer-songwriter's kindred respect for love. His duet with Colbie Caillat, "Lucky," will turn some heads even as the era of the male-female duet seems to have faded significantly in this sort of music. What makes "Lucky" such an outstanding ballad is that both Mraz and Caillat are excellent individually in the verses as well as together on the chorus.
- Tony Pascarella, AbsolutePunk

The disc opens on a tune that feels like a straight-up throwback. “Make It Mine” lays down a smooth funk that might have come from a mid-career Boz Scaggs album or even Joe Jackson, punched up by a Chicago horn section, and topped by a mellow and airy Mraz vocal. Who would have expected that this first track would contain (seriously) a trombone solo?! But there it is - catchy and fun but in a way that seems at least 30 years out of date.
- Will Layman, PopMatters

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King's X ~ XV
Thursday, June 05, 2008 @ 19:40:56 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Artist Name: King's X

CD Title: XV (Inside Out Music)

Mother’s Finest and Circus of Power had a baby and asked UFO to be the Godfather and they christened it King’s X. Such is the groove that is the 15th release from Texas’s own King’s X entitled XV. While Ty Tabor, Gary Gaskill and Doug Pinnick have been putting out one quality cd after another for almost two decades, “XV” may prove to be their seminal release to date.
- Kim Thore, All Access

In 2008 King's X is as vital and vibrant as ever. XV finds the trio of Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill in excellent form. The band's fifteenth album has some of the heaviest songs they've done in a while. It's also packed with King's X's trademark groovy medium tempo songs and a couple of ballads.
- Chad Bowar, About.com

In other words, XV is another prototype King's X mood swing collection, but the way these guys shift vibes with barely a thought in the same way Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor trade off vocal duties (not to mention Tabor’s habitually crafty and instinctive guitar solos) makes for a reliable and trustworthy listening session. More proof positive of the sheer class King's X brings to a fringe rock table that always has seats reserved for them.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr., The Metal Minute

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Buddy Guy: Chops, Attitude Still Strong at 72
Saturday, May 03, 2008 @ 17:23:26 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

If you're looking for bracingly strong viewpoints on music, business and culture, five-time Grammy-winning blues legend Buddy Guy is your man. Indie-Music.com caught up with him recently, in the run-up to the May 31 Elk Creek Blues Festival in eastern Kentucky, which he will headline, and he didn't mince words on any subject that arose in the conversation. Guy was one of the wave of late-1950s guitarist-singers, along with Otis Rush and Magic Sam, based on Chicago's west side, who were known for a more fiery, forthrightly passionate delivery than previous generations of Windy City players. He came from north from Louisiana in 1957 and cut several blistering sides for Eli Toscano's Cobra label, and then Willie Dixon took him to Chess, where he spent much of the 1960s.

The Roots ~ Rising Down
Friday, May 02, 2008 @ 15:00:39 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

The Roots ~ Rising Down (Def Jam)
Artist Name:
The Roots

CD Title: Rising Down (Def Jam)

The Roots' once-jazzy urban hang suite has become a den of indignation. Kicking off the Philadelphia hip-hop band's 10th CD is a snippet from a 1994 conference call with then label Geffen, in which rapper Black Thought goes apoplectic. This is the first of many bad vibes on Rising Down, which turns the downcast mood of 2006's haunting Game Theory outward at the world at large, with gripes about drug laws, school shootings, conflict diamonds, and - that most alarming bellwether of our times - BET programming.
- Sean Howe, Entertainment Weekly

It's gotten to the point where I can't even imagine the Roots being soft anymore. Not to be dismissive of their first few albums, which were thoughtful without being mushy or maudlin, but their three recent records - the underrated/overhated alleged-sellout The Tipping Point, the Def Jam-released tightly knit return to rawness Game Theory, and now Rising Down - are so singularly focused on a kind of distilled, uninhibited force that it's now difficult to think of the Roots as anything but intelligently aggressive firebrands.
- Nate Patrin, Pitchfork

This sort of thematic tack is old hat for the Roots, who have been making music of “urgent means” and concern for years now - at least since Things Fall Apart, and most intensely underscored on 2006’s masterful Game Theory. Rising Down serves up an infuriated and uneasy take on a well-trod methodology that transforms mere fin de siècle paranoia into point-of-no-return panic. Throughout Rising Down, the Roots (with a seemingly endless reserve of guests that includes Dice Raw, Peedi Peedi, former Roots member Malik B., Common, and Talib Kweli) touch upon global warming and the hypocrisy of the American healthcare system, police brutality and the provocations of crime, life during wars of absurdity and principle, and, ultimately, how the only way out of it all is access to ridiculous wealth and/or industry.
- Zeth Lundy, PopMatters

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Leona Lewis ~ Spirit
Friday, May 02, 2008 @ 14:58:46 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Leona Lewis ~ Spirit
Artist Name:
Leona Lewis

CD Title: Spirit (J-Records)

Spirit is a very well rounded album for a debut offering from Leona. You can hear that she has been in the studio for a long time with some of America's hottest producers. There is quite a range from "I Will Be" with moments of American Idol's Carrie Underwood, a nod to Timbaland with "Whatever It Takes" and a charming cover of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face".
- Corin Baird, Handbag

It’s a shame - everyone loves a rags-to-riches fairytale, and by all accounts Lewis is a sweet girl - but no surprise. Spirit pays quivering lip service to ideas of beauty and talent and “specialness”, but is ultimately too manufactured even to be great manufactured pop. If Lewis is looking for the greatest love of all - public adoration - she will have to do better than this.
- Victoria Segal, Times Online

It's no surprise that Leona Lewis has been compared to the likes of Mariah, Whitney and Celine - and not just because she's got the pipes to hold her own among that fearsome triumvirate. The first album from the British reality show winner-turned-superstar also smacks of the heyday of divadom: synths, glistening production, hypersentimentality and full-throated, full-throttle vocals, the kind Mariah hasn't graced us with since the '90s. Come on: Isn't "Footprints in the Sand" (complete with gospel choir!) just begging the drag queens of the world for a hyperbolic impersonation?
- Rachel Devitt, Rhapsody

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Mariah Carey ~ E=MC2
Friday, May 02, 2008 @ 14:56:36 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Mariah Carey ~ E=MC2 (Island)
Artist Name:
Mariah Carey

CD Title: E=MC2 (Island)

E=MC2 is nearly a clone of The Emancipation of Mimi - from the exotica-tinged hip-hop hybrid that kicks it off ("It's Like That" there, the T-Pain duet "Migrate" here) to a speaking appearance by her pastor, Clarence Keaton, on the finale. In between is another carefully calculated mix of mainstream R&B in its dance, pop and old-school manifestations.
- Richard Cromelin, Los Angeles Times

Mariah Carey embraces her extremes: She's either grinding out R&B-hop or singing syrupy ballads, talking dirty or cuddling with a Hello Kitty. Her tenth studio album is no different: It starts in a club and ends in a church.
- Caryn Ganz, Rolling Stone

Daydream. Butterfly. Rainbow. Glitter. No, those aren't the names of Barbie's pet ponies, they're the ridiculously saccharine titles of Mariah Carey's albums from 1995 to 2001. So when she called her 10th studio CD The Emancipation of Mimi three years ago, it was clear that she intended to drop the cutesy shtick, let down her weave, and start getting real. It was a clever move. Emancipation was the lucky strike that updated Carey's sound with bass-heavy flavor and reversed the downward spiral of her sales. Now, with E=MC2 - another bold title - she's out to prove that her comeback was no fluke.
- Margeaux Watson, Entertainment Weekly

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Portishead ~ Third
Friday, May 02, 2008 @ 14:47:41 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

Portishead ~ Third (Mercury)
Artist Name:

CD Title: Third (Mercury)

What has been roughly ten years in the making finally sees release in the form of Third, the aptly titled release from the Bristol-based trio known in part for helping standardize trip hop in the mid ’90s. With the exception of a few scattered contributions and a Beth Gibbons solo album the group has been largely unspoken for in commercial recording since its 1997 self titled release, ever since mystique and anticipation have blossomed around the band’s absence. Now releasing an album of new material, matching its first two releases with an eleven song tracklist, Third may act as a question rather than an answer to the band’s layoff. Not only does Third’s release question whether or not Portishead is still relevant in a changed musical landscape, but it also suggests asking whether or not the trip hop Chinese Democracy was simply worth the wait.
- Culture Belly

All in all, Third is the album Portishead have wanted to make for nigh on a decade and a half. While it is most definitely their opus grand, there's also a sense of closure about the album as a whole, and if this were to be the last record Portishead were to ever make, they couldn't have wished to go out in a more spectacular fashion. Timeless.
- Dom Gourlay, Contact Music

It’s a daring album, not exactly commercial but with so many interesting ideas and so much atmosphere that each passing listen filters a little more light on its subtle ways.
- Simon Cosnys, The Sun

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R.E.M. ~ Accelerate
Friday, May 02, 2008 @ 14:44:00 UTC
Topic: Major Artists

R.E.M. ~ Accelerate (WEA/Warner Bros.)
Artist Name:

CD Title: Accelerate (WEA/Warner Bros.)

Whether inspired by their own stagnation, market forces, or producer Jacknife Lee, the decision to lift the rock restraining order worked wonders: Accelerate corrals 35 minutes of the fastest songs Stipe and Co. have written in decades, all performed with a sense of joyous purpose that clearly comes from a "Fuck it, let's just do this" attitude. They haven't sounded this surprised with themselves since 1998's Up, haven't made an album this consistent since 1992's Automatic for the People, and haven't redlined so engagingly since 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant, whose terrific "These Days" lives on in spirit here.
- Josh Modell, Spin

Accelerate is the first studio album by that post-Berry stage band, and it is one of the best records R.E.M. have ever made. Much of Accelerate was cut in live-band takes and even tested onstage during a run in Dublin last summer, and it shows. Guitars are front and center, in slashing-chord and rusted-arpeggio crossfires, as if you've got R.E.M.'s 1982 EP Chronic Town and the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks spinning in your CD tray at the same time.
- David Fricke, Rolling Stone

Accelerate is the name of R.E.M.'s new album, the band's 14th, and it attempts to port that newfound vigor to the studio, not just by trading longtime producer Pat McCarthy (on board since 1998's Up) for U2 associate Jacknife Lee, but also by pairing down the excess and sharpening the focus. Accelerate might as well be called Reverse, as it self-consciously aspires to recapture the spirit (if not necessarily the sound) of R.E.M.'s prime. Throughout its 11 songs and 35 minutes, only two tracks top the four-minute mark, and many run less than three. But velocity is not the same thing as vitality, and brevity is not the same thing as urgency. Accelerate ultimately isn't so much a back-to-basics move as a redefinition of what "basic" even means to an arena rock band. Accelerate's broad strokes, big riffs, and beefy production (the album was reportedly recorded in "just" nine weeks) are admirable, as is the disc's concision, but its success is still more as a step forward than a slam dunk.
- Joshua Klein, Pitchfork

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