“Music From Another Dimension"
If Aerosmith's definition of the sound of “another dimension" is indeed true, the world is a much less mystical place than we would like to believe. Rather than offering previously unimaginable tones and visions, “Music From Another Dimension" delivers riffs, cliches, solos, yowls and a virtual banquet of the same one-dimensional tropes Aerosmith has been offering for years.
Mixed in, however, are a few gems that might be considered worthy additions to the band's catalog were they offered without such grand promises.
It's not that Aerosmith's first studio album of all-new material in 11 years doesn't rock. It's loud, brash and proves that vocalist Steven Tyler can still yelp (and occasionally sing), the dueling guitars of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford can still find big blues-based riffs, and drummer Joey Kramer still hits hard, keeping pace with bassist Tom Hamilton.
But there are only so many original combinations of blues riffs and sexual boasts one can deliver in a single lifetime. “Out Go the Lights" features Tyler referencing the tired novelty shirt joke about “liquor in the front," and the same song includes the line, “roses are red," which Tyler follows with “my lips on you." And “Another Last Goodbye" sounds like a “Weird Al" Yankovic parody of its power ballad “Dream On."
Whatever dimension Aerosmith has claimed to visit, it certainly wasn't a new one.
— Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
Ne-Yo has said that the follow-up to his coolly received 2010 concept album “Libra Scale" represents a kind of creative retrenchment — an effort “to just get back to the basics," as the R&B star recently told Vibe Vixen magazine.
You get some of that from the first two songs on “R.E.D.," both of which Ne-Yo co-wrote with Shea Taylor, who also produced. “Cracks in Mr. Perfect" and “Lazy Love" share an up-close intimacy with tunes Taylor has made with Beyoncé and Frank Ocean, and the album's third cut, “Let Me Love You (Until You Love Yourself)," seems designed to remind us of simpler times by recycling a portion of its title from the 2004 Mario hit that was one of Ne-Yo's first big songwriting successes.
After that, though, “R.E.D." doesn't really stick to the idea of less is more. In “Don't Make 'Em Like You" the singer teams with Wiz Khalifa for a relatively bumptious hip-hop track, while “Forever Now" and “Shut Me Down" extend Ne-Yo's flirtation with pulsating dance music. Tim McGraw even joins him for a lightly country-fried duet in “She Is," repaying a favor Ne-Yo did McGraw on the latter's “Emotional Traffic." The sound narrows again in “Stress Reliever," another lovely Taylor production built atop a minimal deep-space drum beat. But it only cleanses your palate for more flavors to come.
— Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
“Sorry To Bother You"
Oakland rapper Boots Riley doesn't have all that much competition when it comes to being the sharpest, wittiest, must musically expansive Marxist social critic on the block. But that doesn't mean the Coup's commander-in-chief is easing up on his band's sixth album and first since 2006's “Pick a Bigger Weapon."
The Coup still technically consist of Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress, but they stretch out further than ever into Sly Stone-George Clinton psychedelic-funk territory here. Riley raps over a lovely string arrangement in “Violet" and to the accompaniment of washboards and accordions on “We've Got a Lot to Teach You, Cassius Green," and roots chanteuse Jolie Holland sings on “This Year."
Riley sets his sights on trust-fund kids in “Your Parents' Cocaine" and art-world faux rebels in “You Are Not a Riot." He's joined by younger-generation agitators Das Racist and Killer Mike on the populist closer “Wavip," an acronym for the kind-of-corny sentiment that “we're all VIP."
Not the strongest of Coup albums — 2001's “Party Music" still gets my vote — but a further step forward for a major artist.
— Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Maybe Christina Aguilera just needed something to overcome.
Just when everything seemed to be going right, Aguilera faced a series of high-profile stumbles, including a divorce, the movie clunker “Burlesque," a national anthem fiasco at the 2011 Super Bowl and her disappointing “Bionic" album.
Of course, we all know “The Voice" judge is a fighter, and she ain't gonna stop. Her new album “Lotus" proves it.
For “Lotus," Aguilera pulls together her strengths — the sass, the raw emotion, the big ballads and, most of all, her incredible voice — in a single stylish package for her most focused artistic effort yet.
The up-tempo dance stuff is fun, especially the updated disco of “Red Hot Kinda Love" and the playful “Make the World Move," which features “Voice" pal Cee Lo Green.
Aguilera is at her best, though, when she gets to really belt a ballad she emotionally connects with, like “Blank Page" and the album's crowning achievement “Just a Fool," where she and fellow “Voice" judge Blake Shelton empty their broken hearts in a magnificently sung breakup song that should stand next to “Beautiful" as her career signature.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Universal Republic Records
Soundgarden deftly acknowledges its long absence — 16 years between studio albums — with the title of “Been Away Too Long," the opening track and first single from its new album, “King Animal." Later, in the glum and stately “Bones of Birds," Chris Cornell, the band's singer, main lyricist and rhythm guitarist, intones, “Time is my friend till it ain't and runs out."
But time has stood still, rightfully and triumphantly, for Soundgarden's music, which is still the moody, heaving, asymmetrical hard rock that made the band a trailblazer of grunge.
Soundgarden's gift for the stop-start riff, both slow and fast ones, is back in force with the coiling, leaping, warped blues-rock of “Non-State Actor," the getting-nowhere grind of “Blood on the Valley Floor" and the zigzagging rise and fall of “Worse Dreams." So are its moments of quasi-Indian, quasi-Beatles drone, in “A Thousand Days Before" and “Black Saturday," and the occasional spacey psychedelic interlude.
And the band's morbid pessimism has not been leavened by the years; the lyrics are full of references to blood, drowning and war.
Soundgarden does not advance beyond reclaiming its proven strengths on “King Animal," but those strengths are substantial.
— Jon Pareles, The New York Times