Ghost Stories (Parlophone/Atlantic)
Coldplay's Chris Martin and his actress-wife Gwyneth Paltrow could have saved the "conscious uncoupling" announcement and simply let the band's new Ghost Stories album serve notice of their breakup.
All nine of the songs here are tinged with loneliness and heartbreak. And the band's move toward the icier end of EDM only magnifies the chill of Martin's lyrics.
"Flock of birds, hovering above, just a flock of birds, that's how you think of love," he sings in O. In the lament True Love, he muses, "For a second I was in control, I had it once. I lost it though." On Ink, he "feels like something broken inside" and later that "all I know is that I love you so, so much that it hurts."
While the rest of Coldplay tries to support Martin with a stunningly spare, well-produced musical backdrop, the sadness eventually overwhelms them, too. Only Magic, with its looping bass-and-drum background, and the soaring Sky Full of Stars, with its pop-leaning dance beat, are able to escape the feeling of doom. Sky Full of Stars is the closest thing to what people have come to expect from Coldplay, an anthem that outlines a problem but ends up soaring. However, it's clear from Ghost Stories that Martin just doesn't have that kind of energy this time around.
For some artists, heartbreak is inspirational. For Martin, it seems to have had the opposite effect. 3 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Sky Full of Stars
-- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
The Black Keys
Turn Blue (Warner)
Did you hear that singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach of hip U.S. underground-gone-Grammy-winning band the Black Keys was getting divorced from his longtime partner, Stephanie Gonis? The appropriately titled Turn Blue, the former garage-rockers' eighth album, has Auerbach sharing his feelings re: the emotional toll of conscious uncoupling, while turning the Black Keys' sound inward.
Drummer Pat Carney's role here seems to be to add colour and shading to the Keys' ever-expanding palette of sound, which has evolved into a dark kind of cobalt-coloured swamp-psychedelia you can sway along to. The original punch of the core guitar and drums band has been completely supplanted by a tempered, slow-rolling groove featuring many instruments, usually built on one of Auerbach's simple yet memorable three- or four-note ascending riffs.
The lyrics are "personal in nature" and your enjoyment of the album will depend on your tolerance for this earnest vibe over the course of a full Black Keys experience. Closing track Gotta Get Away is the most gloriously glam-rock these guys have ever sounded and offers hope for a less talk/more rock next one. We may have to hold our breath. 3 stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Gotta Get Away
-- Jeff Monk
Essences des Bois (Effendi)
Montreal pianist and composer Yves Léveillé adds woodwinds to his quartet for a refined energy over eight of his compositions.
The addition of flute, alto flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet and bass clarinet adds musical colour to Léveillé's chamber jazz.
Léveillé is commanding on opener En Marche and wistful on Forêt, which makes excellent use of the woodwinds' essence. Saxophonist Roberto Murray shines on Jonglerie with a warm alto tone. He gets less time in the spotlight here than in Léveillé quartet outings, but he, bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Alain Bastien provide the underpinning so necessary for this chamber-style music.
Fans of the quartet should find plenty to like in this septet recording. HHH1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Forêt
-- Chris Smith
Ysaøe Sonatas for Solo Violin (Avie)
There's precious little room to hide if you're a solo instrumental recording artist.
Fortunately, Winnipeg-based violinist Karl Stobbe easily holds his own -- and more -- with his impressive debut album, Ysaøe Sonatas for Solo Violin, considered one of the peaks of the classical violin repertoire with each sonata dedicated to a contemporary master. The set of six unaccompanied works (Op. 27) dated 1923 showcases the expressive artistry of the longtime Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra associate concertmaster, affirming the Belgian King of the Violin's desire musicians need to be both "thinkers and poets."
Sonata No. 5 in G Major's L'Aurore is imbued with wistful emotion before its exultant arpeggios lead to the strongly rhythmic Danse rustique. No. 4 in A Minor's Allemanda opens brilliantly, although it includes several less-than-sweet notes during its final fugue. Stobbe also takes the listener on a wild ride during the Spanish-flavoured No. 6 in G Major, described in the liner notes as a "seven-minute roller-coaster ride without safety equipment."
Whether you are exploring these works for the first time or know them like the back of your hand, Stobbe offers a tantalizing taste of music, with hopefully more to come from this gifted musician. HHHH
-- Holly Harris
This week's singles
IGGY AZALEA FEAT. CHARLI XCX
Still riding high from her guest appearance on Ariana Grande's Problem, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea has another hit on her hands with Fancy off her recently released debut album The New Classic. The synths sound very early 2000s electroclash, while Iggy and Charli have some solid singer-rapper chemistry, reminiscent of Missy and Ciara, or Eve and Gwen Stefani. 3-1/2 stars
TIESTO FEAT. ICONA POP
Let's Go (PM:AM/Universal)
Teasing his upcoming album, A Town Called Paradise, the Dutch super DJ teams with the sassy Swedish duo and the results are, well, kind of boring. The girls lack the bite of their most prominent hit, I Love It, while Tiesto churns out the kind of mainstream, cookie-cutter dance track he probably would have made fun of 10 years ago. 2-1/2
GARBAGE FEAT. BRODY DALLE
Girls Talk (Stunvolume)
Shirley Manson and company have dealt with themes of anger and alienation plenty of times over the years, and Girls Talk certainly doesn't deviate. There's a paranoid intensity about it, with its constant back and forth between loud and soft and its rather creepy guitar, but the growling vocals are almost too aggressive, thanks mainly to former Distillers singer Brody Dalle. 3 stars
-- Steve Adams