In 2007, the Tuareg guitarist Bombino, real name Omara Moctar, was recorded live at a wedding by the documentarian Hisham Mayet for the startling album “Guitars of Agadez Vol. 2.” Now 33, Bombino still lives in that Saharan city but is ready for global consumption: a soloist and singer, a star, set up with U.S. studio musicians and handsomely produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
Bombino's playing is full of fast, stuttery, rhythmic hammering, coiling lines inside lines. But it also comes out in soft strums and battering single-note attacks, and its tone and phrasing have a flexible identity. In his playing, besides the sound of the pioneering Tuareg band Tinariwen, you might be reminded of Ali Farka Toure, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Garcia electric, Jerry Garcia acoustic. Bombino is never just one thing.
Your feelings toward “Nomad” will not necessarily be determined by how you feel about the Black Keys; where Auerbach the musician still has a crush on stylistic purity, Auerbach the producer has ideas that are more inclusive and more beautiful. He's helped Bombino make a spacious, centered record, one that stretches to appeal to Western listeners — like the nomads, known for their circular dancing, who temporarily inhabit the fields of Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., every June — without strain or clutter or hipness overload.
With its bright, saturated guitar sound, the album replicates a little bit of the intensity of “Guitars of Agadez” recordings (there was one album in between, “Agadez,” recorded in Niger and Massachusetts and released by Cumbancha), and, in a slightly hokey way, a little bit of their atmospherics. There are crowd or street sounds in “Azamane Tiliade,” and some songs stop in a collective slump.
But these songs sound less driving, more streamlined and structured and consolidated. Their rhythm has a slight New Orleans drag added to the desert beat. There's an American folk feeling in some of the acoustic-guitar tracks, like “Imidiwan.”
In his precise, nasal voice, Bombino sings some strong lyrics; translated in the liner notes, they aim to celebrate and protect Tuareg culture and identity. But I'll be surprised if many listeners, under seduction of the music, bother to read them.
— Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
“Disarm the Descent”
“All that we suffer through leads to determination/ The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on,” sings vocalist Jesse Leach on the resolute “In Due Time” off Killswitch Engage's sixth and latest studio release, “Disarm the Descent.”
You see, Jesse Leach has another shot with the Massachusetts metalcore pioneers and this time he is determined to see things through. Where in the past his departure could have crippled Killswitch, Leach, in a strange twist of fate, has returned as the band's savior.
“Disarm the Descent” is the bountiful fruit of the Killswitch's rejuvenation, and proof that, in life and metal, there are second chances.
— Dean Brown, PopMatters.com
The Band Perry
The Band Perry isn't the same sweet gang who fretted about “If I Die Young” anymore. It's issuing murderous threats like “Better Dig Two” now.
Not only does The Band Perry — singer-guitarist Kimberly Perry and her brothers bassist Reid and drummer Neil — sound more confident and accomplished on its sophomore album, “Pioneer,” the group backs it up with stronger hooks and better lyrics.
Using “Better Dig Two” to launch “Pioneer” was a gamble, but it's paid off, topping the country charts with an angry defense of marriage vows, where Kimberly promises, “I'll go to heaven or I'll go to hell before I'll see you with someone else.” And the “Pioneer” songs only get easier to sell after that, especially the title track, which compares a touring musician's traveling life to that of the early pioneers.
In case all those musical adventures don't make it clear enough, The Band Perry is out to stretch the boundaries of today's country music by injecting it with literary references and rock and pop influences. With “Done,” the Perrys rip through an old boyfriend, with cutting lyrics, roaring country guitars and Kimberly's wild vocals that she punctuates with an “uhhh” that connotes disgust and rage. The strut of “I'm a Keeper” brings together Southern rock influences, boogie-woogie piano, Shania Twain sass and Linda Ronstadt country-sweetness to build what will be one of the best songs this year. It's just another thing the Perrys plan to pioneer.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
New Kids On The Block
Since reuniting in 2008, New Kids on the Block has proved to be among the savviest pop acts around. With its new album “10,” the quintet's winning streak continues, effortlessly plugging into pop's current styles without losing its own trademark harmonies and vocal styles.
While the lyrics of “Remix (I Like The)” are a bit on the cutesy side, the slick, slightly-retro production and the catchy chorus are right on target. “The Whisper” is even better, an inspirational dance anthem in the style of David Guetta's work with Usher and Sia. Yes, yes, they're still hangin' tough.
— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Fueled by Ramen Records
Before the songs make the point, the package does. Taking the self-titled “Paramore” CD out of the case reveals Hayley Williams — Paramore's orange-haired, 24-year-old singer and main songwriter — wearing a denim jacket that reads “Grow Up.” The band sets out to do exactly that on “Paramore,” its fourth studio album and its first since a bitter fissure split it.
“Brand New Eyes,” released in 2009, was Paramore's second album to sell more than half a million copies, with brash pop-punk songs in which Williams wrestled with romance, rancor and independence. She had long since emerged from the Warped Tour circuit as a heroine for teenagers struggling with crushes and crises.
But in 2010, after touring for the album “Brand New Eyes,” the guitarist Josh Farro — who had written most of Paramore's songs with Williams — and the drummer Zac Farro, his brother, left the band that they had started as teenagers in Tennessee, while Williams stayed with the guitarist Taylor York and the bassist Jeremy Davis as Paramore.
Could Paramore's songwriting survive the breakup? Yes, and then some. “Paramore” includes 17 songs — though three are brief ukulele ditties — and runs more than an hour. York is Williams's collaborator throughout most of “Paramore,” and they have pushed the band beyond pop-punk without abandoning momentum or the big, catchy chorus.
The production toys with synthesizers, grunge guitar, even a glockenspiel and a string section in the ballad “Hate to See Your Heart Break.” It glances toward the yelp and swerve of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the beginning of “Now” and the Caribbean backbeat of No Doubt in “Grow Up,” in which the chorus insists, “Some of us have to grow up sometimes/ And so if I have to I'm gonna leave you behind.”
— Jon Pareles, The New York Times