This week's singles
Shake It Off (Big Machine/Universal)
The first single from her upcoming album, 1989, is absolutely riddled with cringe-inducing moments, including an embarrassing spoken-word interlude, an oh-my-god Valley Girl impression and an ultra-clichéd haters-gonna-hate chorus. That said, it's also a super-catchy, pure pop track that will undoubtedly be a massive hit. HH1/2
FLO RIDA FEAT. SAGE THE GEMINI
What does GDFR stand for, you may ask? It's Goin' Down For Real. And it does. With a body-moving bassline, and a spastic, snake charmer-like horn arrangement, this is more of that undeniably ear-catching hip-pop stuff that Flo Rida does so well. HHH1/2
GABRIEL & DRESDEN
New Ground (Armada)
The reliable San Francisco trance duo's latest builds like a skyscraper, with layer after layer of chunky beats and hypnotic, chilly synths. It's very easy to picture this one being played at a big outdoor festival. HHH1/2
-- Steve Adams
The Three Poisons (Hidden Pony)
PULLING creative inspiration and sonic attack from previous generations is a tricky business. Montreal's Elephant Stone are musical magpies, stealing constructive exhilarating elements from past masters while aiming to create a future for their eclectic brand. Leader Rishi Dhir (The High Dials) is an in-demand sitarist and it is that instrument's somewhat celestial tone that informs much, but not all, of these alluring tracks. Opening with the tumbling Motherless Child (Love's Not For War) the quartet states their intentions well. The sitar boogies, drums crash and the miniature mid-song freakout is delicious. Dhir has the kind of sweet-toned, naïve sounding vocals that suit this kind of millennial psychedelia -- it grounds the more esoteric musical forays with its carefree tone. Child of Nature is at once Pink Floyd by design and Echo & the Bunnymen in its delivery. The title track begins and ends with the sound of tubular bells and it between fills the space with eerie organ and modal guitar figures. A perfect soundtrack to align your karma. HHHH
DOWNLOAD THIS: Wayward Son
-- Jeff Monk
I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss (Nettwerk)
ON her 10th album, Sinead O'Connor delivers some straight-up love songs while simultaneously delving into the sometimes complicated politics of relationships. As usual, the Irish siren is at her best when she gets personal. Reflecting on a dark period in her life when she felt suicidal, she sings, "I had a dream about a bullet and a red light" on 8 Good Reasons and on Take Me to Church, "So cut me down from this here tree / Cut the rope from off of me," but as the music percolates and builds, it becomes a prayer for the living, a true celebration of life -- "I'm gonna sing songs of loving and forgiving."
It's not all heavy, though as she "gets down" with Seun Kuti (son of Fela) on the funkin' groovy James Brown.
At the helm is longtime collaborator John Reynolds (who was with her on her 1987 debut The Lion and the Cobra and also collaborated on her son, Jake). He handles the roles of producer, co-writer, drummer, keyboard player and programmer. They may no longer be married but they still make beautiful music together. I'm Not Bossy, I'm the Boss is a welcome return to form. HHH1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: 8 Good Reasons, James Brown
-- Bruce Leperre
My Everything (Republic)
ARIANA Grande has a great voice. It's a four-octave marvel that the 21-year-old former Nickelodeon star can take from seductive whisper to booming scream in a matter of seconds.
She just hasn't quite figured out how to harness all of its power yet. Her debut, Yours Truly, from last year didn't quite use enough of it, too often making her sound like a Mariah Carey wannabe from the Vision of Love era. Her new album pushes Grande much harder in all sorts of directions to generally stronger results.
Luckily, Grande sounds good when she's a little uneasy. On her smash Problem, she sounds on edge next to the hip-hop swagger of Iggy Azalea, making the song seem more energetic. She sounds a little freaked out on Break Free with Zedd, singing ahead of the beat on his EDM creation, but that ends up serving the vibe as well.
Sometimes, though, the pushing goes a little too far. On Break Your Heart Right Back, Grande sounds lost in the middle of her own song, her vocals drowned out by the unmistakable sound of Nile Rodgers' guitar from Diana Ross's I'm Coming Out, a throbbing bassline, a stack of backing vocals and a clicking rhythm track.
Grande is at her best when she is only nudged from her ballad-loving comfort zone. The gorgeous hip-hop of Best Mistake, featuring Big Sean, showcases her wide-ranging voice, without focusing on the upper notes too much. Once she can do this regularly, Grande will be unstoppable. HHH1/2
-- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Julia Zilberquit / Moscow Virtuosi
J. S. Bach -- Vivaldi: Two Concertos (Warner Classics)
IT'S more than a little curious that, in all of Vivaldi's 400-plus concerti written for solo instruments and orchestra, not a single one exists for clavier. Enter J.S. Bach, who transcribed two of the Italian master's concerti grossi to create his mighty Concertos for Organ. Russian-born pianist Julia Zilberquit then arranged these latter works (still with me?) as a pair of solo keyboard concerti as featured on this comprehensive, two-disc set.
Originally recorded with Moscow Virtuosi for Musical Heritage Society in 2003, this 2014 re-release on Warner Classics also offers all seven Bach keyboard concerti.
Most compelling are the two Vivaldi-inspired works (BWV 593, RV 565 and BWV 596, RV 522) that bookend the CD. Zilberquit's sensitively crafted, idiomatic arrangements allow listeners to compare and contrast her interpretation with Bach's own re-purposed organ works, as new textures and dynamic shadings emerge.
In the end, one may well prefer Bach's organ works -- or for that matter, Vivaldi's original string conceptions -- but it's still a fascinating ride courtesy of an innovative artist who, also, notably premièred an unknown, early concerto by a 14-year old Ludwig Beethoven. HHHH
-- Holly Harris