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This article was published 21/1/2016 (1979 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Pop & Rock
Coeur de Lion (Aporia)
WITH their latest release, the gloomy Coeur de Lion, Winnipeg quintet Federal Lights are sure to gain further indie-music credibility. Led by the duo of Jean-Guy and Jodi Roy, the band works with a rather delicate sonic palette. Each track is built upon Jean-Guy's beefy vocals and thoughtful lyrical constructs, at times based on repeating phrases that connect perfectly with minimal keyboard parts and lush but never overly-theatrical arrangements.
The tendency for these kinds of bands is to build songs quickly to a climax and repeat that feeling until one can pretty much not stand the energy level anymore. Instead songs like the slow-melting Amelia and the elevating Lie To Me are interesting if only for the difference from what the pack is running with these days. Even the country folk of This Town sets down new footprints.
The title track, mostly sung by Ms. Roy, proves her voice to be worthy of greater inclusion as a lead instrument. For a band that has a promotional photograph of them each seated in a port-a-john with toilet paper dangling above their heads Coeur de Lion is a stunner. *** 1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Then Came The Light, Coeur de Lion.
-- Jeff Monk
Hank Williams Jr.
It's About Time (Big Machine / Universal)
IF you triangulate the co-ordinates of country music from contemporary "bro country" to living icons such as Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Nelson to late old-school legends such as George Jones and Johnny Cash, you'll zero in on Hank Jr. For his 37th (!) album, Bocephus doesn't stray from his standard path that balances an archetypal country-rock style with some new flourishes. The Georgia Satellites-esque Dress Like An Icon pokes a finger at current trends while Those Days Are Gone dips a dirty boot into steel-guitar infused waters. Neil Young's Are You Ready For The Country is given a drum-pounding, while Mel Tillis's standard Mental Revenge gets a good airing.
Williams' archaic "America First" values come through in the ham-headed lyrics to God and Guns, Club U.S.A. and God Fearin' Man, yet the songs still hold musical appeal. He name-checks everyone from Toy Caldwell and Steve McQueen to B.B. King and David Allan Coe, in case you are uncertain of his influences. It's about time Hank II dumped the politics and got rockin'. ***
DOWNLOAD THIS: Dress Like An Icon, Just Call Me Hank.
-- Jeff Monk
Pawn Shop (EMI Nashville/Universal)
GROWING up, lead vocalist T.J. Osborne and guitarist John Osborne consumed a musical diet rich in diversity -- Hank, Petty, Cash, Seger, Jones and, most important, the onstage dynamic of Aerosmith and the rich musicianship of the Allman Brothers.
The brothers aren't like most major-label Nashville acts. They write. They produce. They play. They sing. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find another act with a voice as real as T.J.'s baritone and as relentless and talented a guitar slinger as John.
Check out the three-minute guitar workout on Stay a Little Longer or the slide on cuts like Down Home or the funky title track. Rum is simply a big ol' slice of summer -- catchy, simple and fun.
It's a rarity in today's "country" music, but there isn't one song that is on the wrong side of great on Pawn Shop. This album might even encourage you to go down to your local pawn shop and pick up a beat-up old Stella or a classic Gibson and learn to play.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Rum.
-- Bruce Leperre
Bach Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin
JAPANESE violinist Midori performs the complete set of J.S. Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin, with each of its six archetypal works woven together like a richly brocaded tapestry.
In her own included artist's note, the violinist describes first tackling these works at the age of seven, which ultimately morphed into the cornerstone of her Bach project celebrating the 30th anniversary of her 1982 New York Philharmonic debut.
Suggesting Midori knows these works like the back of her hand would be an understatement. Her thoughtful interpretation of the three "sonatas da chiesa" are performed with sensitive finesse. She ably navigates their respective fugal movements while bringing clarity to their polyphonic voices. However, she shines brightest during the three partitas inspired by courtly French dance forms, from the first Partita No. 1 in B minor BWV 1002 to the final Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 that concludes the work with good-natured optimism and a sunny-spirited gigue. *** 1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Partita No. 1 in B minor.
-- Holly Harris
New Singles Reviews
Get Ugly (Warner)
The latest off his Everything is 4 album is a kinky, kooky club track, overflowing with filthy funk and a catchphrase chorus. It has a lot in common with his previous hit Talk Dirty (including the same number of syllables). Get Ugly is ridiculous for all the right reasons. ****
Try Everything (Universal)
Taken from the soundtrack of Disney's upcoming film Zootopia (in which Shakira also plays the part of a talking gazelle), Try Everything is pleasant and inoffensive, with a jaunty beat and plenty of her trademark warbling vocals. It's also kind of a carbon copy of several of her earlier, better songs. ***
Wild Things (Universal)
The followup to her enormous hit Here, Wild Things deals with similar themes of anti-cool rebellion, but it's much more upbeat, featuring some propulsive percussion, jazzy instrumentation, and that remarkably mature voice that you would never know belongs to a 19-year-old. *** 1/2
-- Reviewed by Steve Adams