WILL.I.AM FEATURING JUSTIN BIEBER
Taken from his forthcoming #willpower album (and yes, the Twitter hashtags are actually part of the titles), will.i.am pulls out all his most will.i.am-y tricks for another club-ready track that sounds more or less the same as everything he's done since the Boom Boom Pow era. It's not as nonsensical as previous single Scream & Shout with Britney Spears, and the Biebs' Daft Punk-sampling chorus is rather catchy. Although, why lift from the same Daft Punk song that's been lifted a million times already? Oh, that's right, so it sounds familiar. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
Air Guitar (Ultra)
As evidenced by the jaw-dropping Take Over Control and the worldwide smash Give Me Everything with Pitbull and Ne-Yo, Dutch DJ Afrojack knows how to produce a hit. This anthem for the recent Ultra Music Festival sounds far less like a dancefloor monster and more like two circular saws grinding together at random. If someone were to actually try playing air guitar to this, it would probably look like they were having an epileptic fit. 'Ö'Ö
Soothe My Soul (Columbia)
Just ahead of the release of next week's Delta Machine album, Depeche Mode unleashes this stomping second single, a serious departure from the gloomy, plodding Heaven. The swaggering electro-noire, thunderous drums, and Dave Gahan's unmistakable vocals make Soothe My Soul come across like Personal Jesus 2.0. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- Reviewed by Steve Adams
-- POP & ROCK
The 20/20 Experience (RCA Records)
BOY did he test our patience. But boy, is he rewarding us for the wait.
After seven years, Justin Timberlake has finally released his third album, The 20/20 Experience, and it's a brilliant piece of work that plays like a musical movement. The 10 tracks (which average seven minutes) weave into one another beautifully as his falsetto glides over each beat. It's an unconventional adventure that makes your bones groove. Seriously.
It's hard to think of another performer who can make a seven-minute track continuously engaging and refreshing, especially at a time when a five-minute song screams "problem" for radio stations and our attention span gets shorter with every tweet or text. One of the standouts of the album is the eight-minute event called Strawberry Bubblegum. It's smooth, airy and full of sexual innuendoes, and it transitions into something that's heaven-like.
Timberlake was flying high off 2006's multiplatinum, Grammy-winning FutureSex/LoveSounds when he essentially walked away from music to act. In the interim, he made one very good movie (the Oscar-winning Social Network) and several so-so ones, and almost seemed like another cast member on Saturday Night Live with all his appearances on the show.
But despite all his attempts to put music on the sidelines, the question everyone always had for him was, "When is that new album coming out?"
Maybe the former 'N Sync leader was stalling because of the monumental success that album triggered and the kind of pressure that places on a performer.
That burden may also be the reason why 20/20 echoes much of FutureSex/LoveSounds, one of the last decade's best albums. When Spaceship Coupe comes on, you'll think of Until the End of Time, and Let the Groove In feels like Sexy Ladies/Let Me Talk to You (Prelude). Like FutureSex/LoveSounds, 20/20 features producer Timbaland's deft hand at the centre of it all.
In some ways, it almost plays like a musical sequel, and if it's not broke, don't fix it, right? Well, not quite.
Timberlake loses some points for the lack of creativity. Yes, 20/20 is near perfect, but it's almost like he's plagiarizing some of his own essay, and that's slightly unfortunate. The album mirrors the futuristic R&B-esque vibe that helped Timberlake leap to the top of the musical ladder -- only it's not so futuristic anymore.
But it's still vital music that rises above the R&B pack. That Girl starts off with old-school appeal, but dabbles into contemporary R&B with a swagger that's also evident on Mirror. You can't do anything but move your shoulders to Don't Hold the Wall and Pusher Love Girl kicks off the album with the right energy. Even Suit and Tie, the solid yet a tad underwhelming first single, fits in nicely here.
These days, it's hard for any star to follow-up a massively successful album, and the challenge gets even steeper when a years-absence is added to the equation. But with a great album on his side, Timberlake should find his return to the top a smooth ride. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: That Girl
-- Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
The Beast in its Tracks (Pytheas)
THE Beast in its Tracks, Josh Ritter's seventh full-length album, is his first since splitting with his wife; accordingly, it focuses almost solely on songs dealing with breaking up and moving on. Instead of the fanciful narratives about arctic explorers and cursed mummies or takes on classic folk murder ballads that have populated the Idaho-born singer-songwriter's previous albums, The Beast is full of deeply personal slice-of-domestic-life stories, joyful and bitter in turn.
And though they may not be storytelling songs in the strictest sense, Ritter's always deft lyrics still paint a complex and literate picture to accompany his lilting acoustic tunes, whose beauty belies their sometimes acidic subject matter.
On the aptly titled Hopeful, Ritter celebrates a new relationship -- "I never meet someone loves the world more than her" -- and on the deceptively pretty New Lover, he takes deliciously schadenfreudy shots at his ex while revelling in his own happiness. If only everyone could turn a terrible experience into something so lovely. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
DOWNLOAD THIS: Nightmares
-- Jill Wilson
Tooth & Nail (Dine Alone)
ON his 10th album and first studio effort in five years, U.K. singer-songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg teams with Grammy-winning songwriter and producer Joe Henry. He's backed up by a stellar band, including Greg Leisz on pedal steel, David Piltch on upright bass, Patrick Warren on keyboards and drummer Jay Bellerose.
Known for his political songs, he claims he's had to remind people "I'm the Sherpa of Heartbreak," with loads of tunes about love and personal struggles. This album has several contemplative examples, including January Song, about the loss of his mother, the soulful Swallow My Pride and a beautiful rendition of I Ain't Got No Home, an old gospel song lamenting life's difficulties made popular by Woody Guthrie. On Nobody Knows Nothing Anymore he questions the meaning of life.
In a recent interview, Bragg said, "I never thought that, 30 years on, I would still be making music." Tooth and Nail is some of his best yet.
Billy Bragg plays the Garrick Centre April 10. Tickets are $40.25 at Ticketmaster. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
DOWNLOAD THIS: There Will Be a Reckoning
-- Bruce Leperre
Antonio Sanchez (CAMJazz)
DRUMMER Antonio Sanchez, more often seen and heard in bands led by the likes of guitarist Pat Metheny, leads a high-energy group on eight of his compositions on his third outing as a leader.
He long ago made his name as a drummer; this disc helps him build his reputation as a composer and band leader. And like the best leaders, he has put together a stellar band: Dave Binney on alto sax; Donny McCaslin on tenor sax; John Escreet on piano and Fender Rhodes; Matt Brewer on basses; and Thana Alexa on wordless vocals.
The title track has a Brazilian vibe, arpeggio-driven piano lines and wordless vocals and includes most of the band members assuming melodic duties in the ever-expanding composition.
The Real McDaddy is a funky groove that opens with drums and the two horns before shifting to a piano/bass/drums trio.
Besides being a good jazz album, New Life is a clear sign that Sanchez is bringing together all his skills. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: The Real McDaddy
-- Chris Smith