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This article was published 20/11/2013 (3108 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This week's singles
While a snippet of this song debuted a few months ago in the trailer for Machete Kills, we didn't get a full, proper listen to it until this past week, with the release of Gaga's latest album, Artpop. With production help from Russian/German electro producer Zedd and psychedelic trancers Infected Mushroom, this is definitely one of the harder electronic tracks we've seen from Gaga. And the cultish repetition of the song's title recalls the creepy gypsy chants of Bad Romance. ***1/2
Your Ad Here (Astralwerks)
The gimmick on this squelchy electro single from his recently released We Are Friends Vol. 2 compilation appears to be that there are 10 four-second gaps of absolute silence in the song, so that you can, presumably, as the title suggests, put "your ad here." It's kind of a neat concept, but until somebody actually fills in the blanks, you're left with these uncomfortable pauses that just sound like something's wrong with the track. Or the DJ who's playing it. **1/2
will.i.am FEAT. MILEY CYRUS, FRENCH MONTANA & WIZ KHALIFA
Feeling Myself (Interscope)
This bonus track from the upcoming deluxe re-release of will.i.am's #willpower album features a bouncy, simplistic beat to encourage twerking, utterly narcissistic lyrics, and some painfully obvious controversy-baiting, potty-mouth "rapping" from Miley that includes references to taking ecstasy. If you devote a good portion of your day to snapping drunken selfies in the mirror and posting them on Instagram, then it would seem this song was tailor-made for you. **
-- reviewed by Steve Adams
Avril Lavigne (Sony)
WHAT can one say about Avril Lavigne that hasn't been said on Twitter already? The super-successful 29-year-old doesn't have many accolades left to collect, and it appears with her latest eponymous album the former punkette from Napanee, Ont., has little left to say musically.
AL sounds exactly as you would expect -- a little rock and roll, a lot of neutered dance/pop music, a ballad or two and a few expletives tossed in just to try and maintain her "nasty" credibility with whomever may still be buying her albums. In fact, these 13 songs are far from distinctive. Rock n Roll opens with typical yap and bombast. Lavigne has a voice that is nothing if not ordinary, and there's a dusting of auto-tuning there to keep it annoying and generic enough to hit the digital airwaves with style.
Tracks like the rap-infused Bitchin' Summer and the breathy Bad Girl (featuring Marilyn Manson) beat the proverbial dead horse even further. There is master marketing at work here. "Hello Kitty," with its references to Japanese pop, treads heavily on nearly decade-old Gwen Stefani territory. After about eight songs -- funnily enough, the exact number she co-wrote with her new hubby, Nickleback's Chad Kroeger -- Avril Lavigne starts repeating itself. Style over substance perhaps, but if Lavigne ever wants to consider herself anything more than a product output facilitator then she should try creating music that isn't so derivative and mundane. In the end it's only exists to further the brand, not create something of lasting interest or importance. **
-- Jeff Monk
Troubadour and the Nightingale
Isabel Bayrakdarian and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO Records)
PACK your bags and get ready to travel to exotic places with Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, conductor Anne Manson and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in their Nov.12 release, Troubadour and the Nightingale.
All the music on this CD was arranged or composed by Bayrakdarian's husband, Serouj Kradjian. In his program notes (for which he is given no credit), he expresses a great interest and influence by the female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries in Southern France, near Spain.
Ravel's Kaddisch is mesmerizing and suitably prayerful. Bayrakdarian's gorgeous clear and sensuous voice is the perfect vehicle for this moving piece.
Sayat-Nova/ Four Songs starts with Graceful one -- rhythmically interesting, especially with the addition of a single hand drum. Long, singing phrases twist and turn in the mournful The Nightingale. Kamancha gives the orchestra a prominent role in this exciting dance.
There is no doubting the skills and talent of Isabel Bayrakdarian; she is as convincing a troubadour as you'll ever find, marvellous in every way. Manson knows this music like the back of her hand, as does the MCO, which excels in this recording. But when listening to this CD from start to finish, everything starts sounding the same. Some variety of genre would go a long way to remedy this. ****
-- Gwenda Nemerofsky
Crop Circles (Open Road/Universal)
Multiple CCMA award winner and Juno nominee Dean Brody returns with his fourth collection of tunes. Lead single Bounty is a high-energy classic tale of murder and revenge on the run, enhanced with the killer pipes of special guest vocalist Lindi Ortega --it's quite possibly the best thing he's ever released. Crop Circles celebrates country living with a banjo intro that shifts into an edgy rocker about raisin' hell (with a somewhat silly "alien" slant). Marianne is a beautifully stark yet lively love song. Mountain Man is about surviving in the wild and has one of the best lines in a country song ever: "Baby don't panic, I know how to cook bannock." Only a proud Canadian boy could pull off that one.
With the exception of the somewhat tired theme of rural life and the Kenny Chesney-influenced faux reggae of Sand in My Soul, Crop Circles is Dean Brody's strongest album yet, both vocally and musically.
Catch Brody on tour when he stops at the MTS Centre Feb. 12. ***1/2
DOWNLOAD THIS: Bounty
-- Bruce Leperre
Saturday Morning (Jazz Village)
Ahmad Jamal, the 83-year-old elder statesman of jazz piano, is back with the dexterity and passion that marked last year's Blue Moon. Jamal comes out running in the opener, Back To the Future, with his dramatic sprint to the end of the tune.
He is backed by bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena, the musicians who helped make Blue Moon such a success.
Jamal's playing is full of engaging ideas and changes of tack; you almost forget the superb technique that allows it to happen.
The title track has a repeated, hypnotic melody that captures the listener for its 10-minute duration, and a shorter reprise (3:41) closes the disc just to drive it home.
The Line is a funky affair that highlights Riley's New Orleans roots. Veal swings throughout the disc and is more in the forefront than on Blue Moon, while Badrena adds beautiful layers to the mix.
Jamal is a musical force who has recorded another marvellous album. ****
DOWNLOAD THIS: Saturday Morning
- Chris Smith