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This article was published 3/9/2014 (1028 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
EMINEM FEAT. SIA
Guts Over Fear (Shady/Interscope)
Taken from his upcoming Shady XV project and featured in the new Denzel Washington movie The Equalizer, this is fairly typical, brooding, mid-tempo Eminem. It actually borders on boring until you get to the chorus, performed brilliantly by pop singer Sia. HHH
The latest from their newly released album V isn't quite as immediate as Maps, and Adam Levine's piercing falsetto reaches an almost uncomfortable new high, but Animals still has enough of a sing-along chorus, head-nodding beat, and raw sexuality to make it a solid addition to their catalogue. HHH
JENNIFER LOPEZ FEAT. IGGY AZALEA
Booty (Remix) (Universal)
What's this all about? Well, there's a subtle clue in the title. The original queen of the junk in the trunk J-Lo enlists the help of currently red hot and equally gluteus maximusly-gifted Iggy Azalea for this boisterous ode to the backside. Laced with exotic synths, it's moderately more tolerable than Nicki Minaj's similarly themed Anaconda, but in the end, it never really rises above throw-away novelty-track status. HH
-- reviewed by Steve Adams
Thou or I or Both (Independent)
Halifax, N.S., quintet SoHo Ghetto makes the type of modern pop music that spreads itself thickly into your consciousness and finds ways to introduce itself into the folds both your short- and long-term musical memory. Ostensibly they honour classic majestic arena rock from another era, when U2 uplifted every stadium and person on the planet and Michael Stipe and Chris Martin posters were on every sensitive music fan's bedroom wall. Let's just say Thou or I or Both might just make the arrangements of your favourite Arcade Fire track feel a little lacking in heft. But there is "epic" and there's cloying and much respect to grand designer and band front person Marc-Antoine Robertson for keeping the elevational tendencies of these arrangements in check. Dark piano chords balance the Edge-inspired guitar work on the boiling Sisyphus while the Morrissey-informed vocals on Bobolink work well with the stately muted trumpet accompaniment. As far as ultra-dense, poppy and highly metaphorical rock music goes Thou or I or Both is as charming as it gets. They may have a hard time topping this. HHH1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Rook
-- Jeff Monk
The Crooked Brothers
Thank You I'm Sorry (Independent)
HOMEGROWN favourites the Crooked Brothers have concocted a mixed bag of songs for their latest album, the short, nine-tracker Thank You I'm Sorry. The trio of multi-instrumentalists (Jesse Matas, Darwin Baker and Matt Foster) blend Canada-strong folk music with a loose alt-country vibe, dappled with beat poetry and even some cool rockabilly here, and most of it will please fans of the band.
Every "brother" contributes vocals, but it is basso Matt Foster's epic mutter that characterizes most of the representative songs. Not that his voice isn't evocative -- he attempts a sort of grizzled world-weariness -- it's just that he ends up sounding like he's singing into his fulsome beard and then down the front of his Pendleton shirt. The lovely banjo plucking and earnest guitar shadings that color some of the tracks a light shade of grey help maintain the album's darker moods. Contrasting this hue are energetic bursts, such Pass You By and the harmonica-driven Mean Mean Baby. Lightning in My Chest brings both sides of the band together with energetic force and for that track alone we should say "Thank you." HH1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Pass You By
-- Jeff Monk
The Wooden Sky
Let's Be Ready. (Chelsea)
IT starts with a ringing guitar line over a keyboard drone and a propulsive drum beat. Repeated again and again, the catchy little riff flicks the switch marked "head bob" and the listener is swept into a breezy alt-country/roots rock tune about "all the Queen Street cowboys out there standing in line, sucking all the mystery out of Saturday night."
So begins Let's Be Ready. (and yes, the period belongs in the title), the Wooden Sky's fourth full-length and its first release on its own Chelsea Records label. Unlike its predecessor, the elegiac, almost morose Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun, most of the 10 songs here engage at a higher tempo, as if singer/guitarist Gavin Gardiner and his bandmates have kicked themselves into a new gear.
These bursts of controlled adrenalin are certainly welcome but Gardiner hasn't abandoned his literate examinations of love, loneliness, loss and life's meaning. On both Kansas City and Write Them Down, the Wooden Sky is as keening and mournful as it's ever been and Gardiner's nasal drawl is achingly expressive. Still, the overwhelming sensibility of this album is one of exploration and celebration, as exemplified by the exuberance of songs (and song titles) such as Our Hearts Were Young, When the Day is Fresh and the Light is New and Don't You Worry About a Thing. HHHH
Download these: Saturday Night, Maybe It's No Secret
-- John Kendle
Afraid of Heights (Independent)
Jazz singer Grace Hrabi's debut album is influenced by folk and pop sensibilities over 11 tracks, eight composed by her, performed by a spare trio of voice, guitar and bass.
Ottawa-based Hrabi, a former Winnipegger, and her Winnipeg bandmates, bassist Quintin Bart and guitarist Jesse Popeski, deliver a big sound nonetheless.
Hrabi's rich voice is just right for her tunes (especially the title track) and three standards.
The three musicians have a good rapport and the guitar/bass instrumentation is plenty for Hrabi's voice and the arrangements on the CD. The bowed bass is used to good effect.
Her compositions are good and will carry her a long way, but she shines a little brighter on the standards. After all, it's hard to compete with the likes of Johnny Mercer (Autumn), Paul Weston (Day) and Henry Mancini (Charade).
Hrabi is a good singer and songwriter. HHH �
DOWNLOAD: Afraid of Heights
-- Chris Smith