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This week's singles

will.i.am feat. Britney Spears

Scream & Shout (Interscope)

The latest from will.i.am's upcoming #willpower album features Britney inexplicably doing a British accent, a sample of her iconic "It's Britney, bitch" catchphrase, nonsense oh-eee-oh lyrics meant for club kid sing-alongs, and generic cut-and-paste synths. A bit of a mess then. HH 1/2

Depeche Mode

Untitled (EMI)

At a recent press conference, the trio announced its 2013 world tour and teased the spring release of its new album with this as-yet-untitled new track. Dave Gahan's unmistakable vocals see-saw between sighs and snarls over beautifully bleak, squelchy electro-rock. Longtime fans will love this. HHHH

Swizz Beats feat. Chris Brown & Ludacris

Everyday Birthday (Monster Music)

The newest in a long line of reliably rowdy "Go shorty, it's your birthday" type of party songs sports a rambunctious bassline, the squawking siren from Kill Bill, and Luda sounding punchier than he has in ages. HHH

-- reviewed by Steve Adams

Christina Aguilera

Lotus (RCA)

THERE are vocalists who could sing the phone book and make it sound as heavenly as the Bible. Christina Aguilera has that force -- a voice with highs that could shatter glass-block, lows that could tear tar from the streets, lustrous subtlety that provokes tears.

The problem is that sometimes, after several phone books, it's hard to get excited by sheer beauty alone.

On several cuts off her new album she seems hell-bent on woman-scorned vengeance. With lyrics seemingly directed at her ex-husband, the thumping Army of Me and Circles play-act at anger in a way that's noncommittal and forced. The R&B-pop crackle of Your Body is better suited to Xtina's heated vocals. With louche sensuality, she puts all of herself into its off-kilter groove. Only some of Aguilera's slow numbers are true successes. Power ballad Sing for Me is too darn "universal" and cloying. But she's at home with the lover-come-back blues of Blank Page.

Good, but not great. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

k blues of Blank Page.

Good, but not great. HHH

DOWNLOAD THIS: Your Body, Blank Page

-- A.D. Amorosi, Philadelpia Inquirer

Wool On Wolves

Measures of Progress (Independent)

EDMONTON quintet Wool on Wolves' second full-length delivers enough bold musical statements to keep even the most ruthless sophomore slump at bay. There is an inventive beginning, middle and end to this set, opening with a slow-starting mood piece with proud intentions (Unsuspecting Ways) and an example in miniature of what is to spread itself across this tasteful set of genuine songs. The band cleverly captures a position between self-involved, navel-gazing pop and a kind of ecstatic, instrument-filled clamour, and there are even some intense and loud workouts. Be the Change has a swell, Harry Nilsson-esque bounce to it that proves the band has range. The song steadily shifts into a kind of space-rock echo zone in the last half. Even the oblique instrumental dub-boogie of Francis! makes a case for a new sound boiling down from Canada's West. The band is at Le Garage, Nov. 26. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

DOWNLOAD THIS: Broken Pictures, Love Is Learned, Francis!

-- Jeff Monk

COUNTRY

Jerrod Niemann

Free the Music (SonyMusic)

WHEN we spoke with Niemann before his Dauphin Countryfest performance this summer, he excitedly described how his sophomore major label release was going to be different from all the rest. We've heard this sort of talk out of Nashville before and rarely is it true.

We should have believed him. Free The Music is just that. Recorded with old-school analogue tape, the album brings horns (trombone, trumpet, French horn, saxophone and even tuba) onto the playground and, oddly enough, they get along quite nicely with the usual players: pedal steel, piano, upright bass, accordion, drums and guitars. Styles range from the eclectic to the traditional (including ragtime). There are drinkin' songs and love songs, but the freedom theme gets a lyrical workout too, "You gotta get on up before you can get down."

Free the Music will free your body and your mind. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

DOWNLOAD THIS: Fraction of a Man, Get On Up, Only God Could Love You More, Guessing Games

-- Bruce Leperre

JAZZ

The Lucas Sader Project

Apollo, Tribute to the Miles Davis Quintet (Lucas Sader Music)

Winnipeg drummer Lucas Sader has taken on a tough task by recording a tribute to Miles Davis's second great quintet, one of the most formidable bands in jazz history.

Sader put together a good band of young local musicians -- bassist Karl Kohut, pianist Paul De Gurse, saxophonist Paul Balcain -- and veteran trumpeter Derrick Gardner, one of the drummer's instructors in the U of M jazz studies program. They capture the essence of the Miles quintet while keeping tunes such as Stella by Starlight, Blue in Green and The Sorcerer current. De Gurse and Gardner especially stand out on Stella.

Sader's composition Apollo is very good and fits seamlessly into the Miles theme. His Moonrise and Blues for Wynton Kelly, the theme played three times, are engaging tunes. Gardner's sense of Miles is a key to the recording, as is Sader's sometimes understated, often eloquent drumming. HHHH

DOWNLOAD THIS: Apollo, The Sorcerer

-- Chris Smith

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2012 C4

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