THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
PITBULL FEAT. JOHN RYAN
The latest from Pitbull's upcoming eighth album, Globalization, clearly falls into the so-bad-it's-good category. Ridiculously cheesy lyrics, a sax loop that tries to out-sax Epic Sax Guy and the dramatic declaration, "I'm a... FIREBALL." The whole thing sounds like something the Homestar Runner gang would have come up with if Strong Bad got an email asking him to make a campy Latin dance track. But damn if it isn't super-catchy. HHH
IGGY AZALEA FEAT. RITA ORA
Black Widow (Def Jam)
The followup to Iggy's serious song-of-the-summer contender Fancy is an ominous, vindictive trap-stravaganza that comes across like a darker, Fatal Attraction version of Katy Perry's Dark Horse -- which is interesting to note, because Perry apparently co-wrote this one too. HHH1/2
STEVE ANGELLO FEAT. DOUGY FROM THE TEMPER TRAP
Wasted Love (Columbia/Sony)
The first single from the former Swedish House Mafia member's forthcoming Wild Youth project features a pensive vocal and big, stratospheric synths that rival those of Don't You Worry Child. More quality arena-ready EDM from a master of the genre. HHH1/2
-- reviewed by Steve Adams
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Hypnotic Eye (Warner Bros.)
TOM Petty's standing as one of rock and roll's elder statesmen is unimpeachable.
Though the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has always had an eye for his cultural and political surroundings, he took a hard left turn with 2002's The Last DJ. With Hypnotic Eye, Petty & the Heartbreakers use the blues to champion the working class and rail against the elite, without losing the catchy tunefulness that has made him so approachable.
The album is bookended by caustic takes on the country's current state. Opening with American Dream Plan B, with its rumbling, fuzzed-out guitar riffs, Petty is saying young people should focus on happiness instead of economic success, since the latter is basically impossible now. It closes with Shadow People, in which Petty warns in between Mike Campbell's snarling guitar solos and Benmont Tench's ominous keyboards, "I ain't on the left and I ain't on the right. I ain't even sure I got a dog in this fight."
Petty's scathing remarks impressively never lose their momentum. He pairs his personal tale of escaping his burning home with bluesy guitar flourishes from Campbell in All You Can Carry and turns it into a broader example for America. On Power Drunk, he contemplates the negative effects of authority while Campbell contemplates Let It Bleed-era Rolling Stones.
Not only is Hypnotic Eye one of the best albums in the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers catalogue, it shows that the 63-year-old Petty is ready for a Bob Dylan-like artistic resurgence. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS:Shadow People
-- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Eric Clapton & Friends
The Breeze, An Appreciation Of J.J. Cale (Universal Music Canada)
Perhaps it's an arguable point, but one might say that Eric Clapton's career took a turn for the better when he covered John Weldon Cale's Cocaine for his 1977 breakout album Slowhand. This 16-track tribute set is an apt homage to an artist that was mostly under-appreciated by the general public until late in his career. Clapton and pals Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Don White and Cale's wife Christine Lakeland deliver a big-hearted helping of Cale originals and it's worth a listen. Cale's so-called "Tulsa sound" was built on his buttery Stratocaster guitar tone and his practically non-existent vocals -- Clapton, Petty and Knopfler sound just like the guy here. Everyone gets it right for the most part although the addition of Nelson, as wonderful as he is at this late date, seems a bit out of place. Now is about the time that everyone should really be checking into Cale's own back catalogue to really appreciate what he could do. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Rock And Roll Records
-- Jeff Monk
Trouble in Paradise (Cherrytree/Interscope)
Everything about Elly Jackson is severe. Looking like a cross between Tilda Swinton and Man Who Fell to Earth-era David Bowie (from whose diverse catalogue she has inherited a few elements), the singing/ playing/composing half of La Roux played it ice-cold on the act's 2009 eponymous debut, then sultry-steamy on Trouble in Paradise, its just-released followup. On the first album, La Roux's unthawed electro-pop was laced with the type of lyrical personal insecurities any first-timer might share. But Trouble in Paradise is worldlier and sexier, embracing concepts and characters and laughs outside the isolationist self. What's the difference? Well, for one thing, La Roux, once two, is now one: During the creation of Trouble, Jackson rid herself of producing/ writing partner Ben Langmaid (he co-wrote some but not all of Trouble) to become the sole surviving Roux.
With warmth comes diversity. Jackson borrows a Grace Jones verbal clip throughout the album. Paradise is You shimmers like the best '60s girl groups. Like one of Chic's female singers (or at least a pal of Nile Rodgers), Jackson swoons through the disco of Tropical Chancer and the angularity of Let Me Down Gently while sticking to La Roux's characteristic robot-pop. HHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Paradise is You
-- A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Stu Larsen (Nettwerk)
Singer-songwriter Stu Larsen has lived the title of his album ever since he abandoned the safety of his job and domicile in Queensland, Australia, to follow his muse and make the road his home. It's immediately apparent in both his lyrics and song titles -- Ferry to Dublin, Thirteen Sad Farewells or Some Kind of Gypsy.
Stu Larsen has crafted an 11-piece tapestry of beautifully written and lovingly orchestrated folk pop. Sometimes spirited and at others simply gorgeous it is somewhat reminiscent of his buddy and producer Mike Rosenberg (AKA Passenger), who also contributes vocals and guitar.
Whether seeking someone "Who I can love in the mornings, in the middle of days, the afternoons and the evenings too" or anticipating loves inevitable departure on the beautiful but stark cello- and violin-enhanced Skin & Bone, Larsen never fails to deliver.
Stu Larsen is a vagabond in a quest for love, acceptance and a place to call home. For starters you can give his album a spot in your heart. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Thirteen Sad Farewells
-- Bruce Leperre
Martin Speake/Douglas Finch
Sound Clouds (Pumpkin Records)
Former Winnipeg pianist/composer Douglas Finch is famously known for his ability to freely extemporize on musical themes shouted out by the audience during his live concerts. Now based in London, the virtuosic artist has teamed with British jazz saxophonist Martin Speake in this improvisatory CD that marries classical and jazz influences.
Title track Sound Clouds pays homage to Iannis Xenakis while Flugue's thematic material is derived from Shostakovich's Fugue in D major (24 Preludes and Fugues). The atmospheric Elegy I, evoking Morton Feldman's floating rhythms and textures, includes Finch's delicately plucked piano strings against Speake's sustained tones. The cheekily titled Hoedownup barrels out of the gate with whiffs of bluegrass.
It's noteworthy that the CD's 15 tracks were recorded sequentially without edits or retakes. This creates a sense of intimacy; you feel you're right there in the recording studio as the two musicians play off each other as though in musical dialogue. There is also a palpable, simpatico rapport between the pair, who teach at London's Trinity Laban Conservatoire.
While you might not go away whistling any of its free-ranging tunes, Sound Clouds still offers a fascinating combustion of forces performed by two strongly committed musical explorers. HHH 1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Elegy I
-- Holly Harris