Gentleman (Universal Republic)
YOU'VE got to hand it to K-Pop star Psy -- he's really trying his hardest not to end up being lumped in with The Macarena. Topping the worldwide phenomenon that was Gangnam Style was always going to be impossible. It was inexplicably catchy and had a ridiculously memorable video. Gentleman follows that same template, just to a lesser extent. The energetic synth line instantly sticks with you. As do the lost-in-translation Korenglish lyrics, which include "I'm a party mafia!" and the so-bad-it's-good "I'm a mother father gentleman" chorus. And the video features plenty of pelvic thrusting, another silly dance, and Psy doing a lot of goofy, rather un-gentlemanly things. In other words, it's exactly what it should be. 'Ö'Ö'Ö
Here's To Never Growing Up (Epic)
THE idea that Avril Lavigne might have a Peter Pan complex couldn't be any more blatantly obvious on this new single from her upcoming fifth album. With the teenage angst and the auto-tune turned up to 11, she defiantly declares she's "staying forever young" and she's "never gonna change." The Radiohead shout-out in the chorus wants to add some credibility to what is otherwise a fairly average mid-tempo punk-pop track, that at several points seems to be trying to out-Ke$ha Ke$ha. If you're still belting out Sk8er Boi like it was 2002, this is definitely for you. Two and a half stars
RAY J FEAT. BOBBY BRACKINS
I Hit it First (KO Entertainment)
IT'S painfully clear Ray J is taking a swipe at ex-girlfriend Kim Kardashian and her new beau Kanye West on this gratingly juvenile club track. And it's virtually impossible to ignore the drama and focus strictly on the song, because essentially every lyric smashes you over the head with a mallet with "hidden" meaning: "she might move on rappers and ballplayers, but we all know I hit it first... baby chose to go West... if you were to come back to me, we'd make another movie..." Even the cover art is a pixelated image of a well-known paparazzi shot of Kim. Let it go, dude. Eagerly anticipating the Kanye response. Two stars
-- Reviewed by Steve Adams
POP & ROCK
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Mosquito (Interscope Records)
FROM the opening seconds of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' fourth album, you'll wonder how you have lived without the dulcet tones of Karen O for the four years since the release of their third album, It's Blitz. No one else has a voice quite like hers.
But the indie rock trio's new album is different from their Grammy-nominated 2009 effort: Every track on Mosquito could be a single.
The album opens with Sacrilege, which is brilliantly constructed with pounding drums, leading into layered, screeching background vocals. The title track buzzes with a hypnotic rhythm, reminding you integral drums are to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' sound. The lyrics are almost comical, but add to the feverish frenzy with lines like, "Suck your blood, they're gonna suck your blood."
Beauty emerges in the album's quieter moments, too: Subway uses the lulling rhythm of a train travelling down the tracks, as Karen O sings softly and quietly, "I lost you in the subway car, got caught without my Metro card." The softness is reminiscent of Maps on the band's 2003 debut, Fever to Tell.
Yeah, yeah, yeah -- they still got it. Four stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Subway
-- Sian Watson, The Associated Press
Inspiration Information + Wings Of Love (Epic/Shugiterius)
JOHNNY Veliotes Jr., a.k.a. Shuggie Otis, is the son of the late American rhythm and blues bandleader Johnny Otis. This new two-disc sets aims at setting the proverbial record straight on the near-brilliance of the virtually unknown son of a legend.
Why now? Well, Inspiration Information itself is in its third life. Originally released in 1974, it was rediscovered and issued again in 2001 by David Byrne's (Talking Heads) Luaka Bop label. Since his father's passing in 2012, Shuggie has resurfaced, and with a new album and tour planned, this jewel of a set will put anyone who cares closer to the magic that may yet be revealed by new Otis work.
Inspiration Information" is the kind of album that speaks to the era in which it was created, with its breezy drum machine beats via Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On and the loose funk courtesy of Stevie Wonder. Shuggie's music comes fully formed and highly charged. Influenced by his father and vaunted as a sideman to the stars from a young age, he reveals his special genius here, track after track. He plays virtually every instrument himself and while his idiosyncrasies are evident, they speak to his artistic vision in a way that sets him apart from his contemporaries.
Wings of Love cherry-picks 14 exceptional, previously unheard Shuggie tracks from 1975 to the present. With any luck, the 59-year-old Otis may now justifiably get the attention he deserves as a still cool and unacknowledged psychedelic soul, blues and funk music pioneer. ****1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Wings Of Love
-- Jeff Monk
Based on a True Story (WB/Warner)
AS an engaging judge on television's The Voice, good ol' boy Blake Shelton has seen his already rising star elevated even higher.
During his ascent, Shelton seems to have forgotten his roots. Earlier recordings were inhabited by rambunctious characters like the Playboys of the Southwestern World and the prison escapee of Ol' Red. Based on a True Story finds Shelton focusing on love ballads and mid-tempo country like current number one Sure Would Be Cool If You Did. He's also following in the (questionable) footsteps of Jason Aldean, who has recently recorded rappy, attitude-infected ditties similar to album opener Boys 'Round Here.
Shelton's latest may be uninspired, cliché-driven and predictable mainstream country pop (with a few nasty words to make him sound "edgy") yet it's guaranteed to be just as popular as Miss Kay's squirrel brains at a Duck Dynasty family dinner. And that's significant! Two and a half stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Granddaddy's Gun
-- Bruce Leperre
A Different Time (OKeh)
JOHN Medeski's solo piano CD is an introspective, contemplative recording.
Yes, that John Medeski; the musician we have come to know and love laying down a deep groove on Hammond B-3 in the jazz/jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood.
A Different Time is a series of nine improvisational pieces performed on a 1924 Gaveau piano, which responds to a more delicate touch than modern instruments. This is the first release of the revived OKeh imprint, a storied jazz label, and it's a good choice. It gives Medeski a 41-minute showcase on seven of his own compositions and two covers, including a wistful take on Willie Nelson's I'm Falling in Love.
A Different Time is a different side of Medeski that he should revisit. It confirms a depth of skill and composition that needed its own stage outside the successful MM&W groove machine. Three and a half stars
DOWNLOAD THIS: Otis
-- Chris Smith