Mom & Pop Records
Think of a band like Fleetwood Mac, which had a semi-career's worth of blues-rock behind them — and then unveiled a poppy blockbuster like “Rumours.” That's the size of the jump the band Metric makes in “Synthetica,” an album both new and full, in effect, of greatest hits; it trumps the band's entire career up to this point.
Only “Gimme Sympathy” off their 2009 album “Fantasies” hinted at this entire record of nervy songwriting perfection.
Emily Haines has never before lined up hooks this way, one after another, like the Gary Glitter stomp of “Youth Without Youth,” girl-group pop of “The Void,” sly bounce of “Lost Kitten,” and atmospheric-anthemic “Breathing Underwater.” “Clone” is a dead-on Death Cab rip followed by “The Wanderlust,” which is aided (literally) by Lou Reed.
Indie is rarely this imaginatively encyclopedic and slickly pop at the same time.
— Dan Weiss, The Philadelphia Inquirer
This album has been available as a chart-topping import for under a year, but now that the time has come to release it full and proper in the States, slick-soul songsmith Ed Sheeran couldn't just do it quietly. His “+” (as in “Plus”) jumped into the Billboard/SoundScan album chart's Top 200 at No. 5, the highest debut for a U.K. solo artist's first full-length since 2009. The only thing more impressive is the dippy craftsmanship that got him there.
Sheeran's sound is folksy, with a good helping of soul man (young soul man: he's 21); his heart is worn on his sleeve in many lyrics. In a voice like a baby Boz Scaggs and/or a mushy Damien Rice, Sheeran riffs to his peer group about computer games, Shrek and couch surfing.
Some of his debut features big-dumb-kid stuff like the treacle of “Kiss Me.” Mostly though, “+” highlights the very best R&B elements of the boy band craze from the '60s through the present with the likes of “Grade 8” and “The City” oozing new jack swing, to say nothing of its airy, contagious choruses. Better still, if that's possible, is the heartbreak beat of “The A Team,” with Sheeran's effortless crooning. Swoon.
— A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Thirty years have passed since guitarist Pat Metheny last recorded with the guitar/tenor setup of “80/81.”
Here the mighty tenor saxophonist Chris Potter assumes the role Michael Brecker and Dewey Redman played on that earlier CD, and the “Unity” session ranges from beautiful to adventurous to sublime.
Metheny melts into his airy zone, achieving a free sound that is both accessible and hard to categorize. Potter is ever churning new ideas, while a new collaborator, bassist Ben Williams, joins with longtime Metheny drummer Antonio Sánchez to create the high-end rhythm section.
“New Year” is one of the most gorgeous Metheny intros ever, with its Spanish tinge.
For “Signals,” Metheny breaks out the orchestrion, the electronic gizmo that dominated his last recording, for a piece that segues from modernistic to smart and subtle. “Then and Now” is luxurious and happy, while Metheny's solo on “Come and See” makes for a persuasive climax.
— Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Until now, Chris Brown has been all about potential — the next Michael Jackson, the next great hip-hop superstar, the next big brand spokesman.
Many of those possibilities evaporated after Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault for beating his then-girlfriend Rihanna so severely she ended up in the hospital in 2009. His recent bottle-throwing brawl with Drake and his crew has likely soured some of the little goodwill he had left.
That's unfortunate, since his new album, “Fortune,” shows so much of the musical growth that his fans had long been expecting.
Brown's range has widened significantly, able to vocally tackle a straight-up R&B ballad like “Sweet Love” as well as the club anthems like “Turn Up the Music” that have been filling the charts.
Whether anyone but his most strident fans can believe him when he croons “Baby, let's get naked just so we can make sweet love” after seeing his well-publicized anger-management issues remains to be seen.
However, the light touch he brings to the emotional “Stuck on Stupid” or even “Strip,” the kinda-degrading come-on he disguises as sprightly pop, shows a vocal maturity that Brown didn't have before.
Perhaps that explains why so many top-flight producers and artists, including Madonna collaborators William Orbit and Benny and Alle Benassi (“Don't Wake Me Up”) and Nas (“Mirage”), are still willing to team up with him. Brown doesn't make anyone forget his issues with “Fortune,” but he does show he's still willing to fight (metaphorically) for his career.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
It's been nearly five years since Flo Rida cracked the code for radio-friendly up-tempo hip-hop with “Low” and the underappreciated “Mail on Sunday” album. However, on his new “Wild Ones” album, Flo's formula wears thin.
“Wild Ones” basically plays like one long song cut into bits to swap out the various guests and lyrical concepts. Cue Jennifer Lopez and the candy references for “Sweet Spot.” Speed up the sample on Brenda Russell's “Piano in the Dark” to fit the pattern for “I Cry.” “Wild Ones” is pleasant but bland, and aside from a few short bits, way too tame.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday