Bing Search

new this week
Inside Music: New This Week
The Kooks, 'Listen'
Rating: Our Rating
Four albums into their career and it became clear to The Kooks it was time to shake things up. Their third record, 2011's "Junk of the Heart," came dangerously close to the middle of the road -- it was excessively polished and reliant on measured pop tunes -- and didn't make anybody's pulse race, so the group decided to take a different tactic on 2014's "Listen." Hooking up with Inflo, a British hip-hop producer who makes his big-time debut here, The Kooks definitively take a step toward a fresher, modern music, one that's informed by dance music and rap, not to mention a retro-new wave fetish that's simultaneously old and new. Classicists that they are, the Kooks don't necessarily sound futuristic as they expand their horizons; when they dabble in disco on "Forgive & Forget" they recall not only the future shock of 1980 but also Franz Ferdinand, the single "Down" dilutes and angelicizes Kid Rock's "Batwatdibaba," while "Westside" and "Are We Electric" get slathered in synths straight out of 1982. These rhythmic tracks, which are a far cry from the caution of "Junk of the Heart," are paired with limber guitar pop ("It Was London," "Bad Habit") that is firmly within the quartet's wheelhouse. The more familiar sounds are paired with the sturdiest songwriting but what gathers attention here are the tracks furthest afield from the Kooks' traditional pop. Especially after the staid Junk, the deliberate liveliness of "Listen" is indeed welcome, and sometimes, the results come close to infectious. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
featured new releases
Coves, 'Soft Friday'
Rating: Our Rating
Coves took their time releasing their debut album, "Soft Friday." Instead of cranking out a set of songs as soon as some buzz began around them, Beck Wood and John Ridgard honed their blend of garage-y glamour and psychedelic atmosphere with several years' worth of singles. Their patience paid off: "Soft Friday" reveals the pair as a band inspired by like-minded duos such as the Kills and Raveonettes as well as evocative masters such as Echo & the Bunnymen and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but not overly indebted to them. The singles that built up anticipation for the rest of their debut remain standouts: the way "Cast a Shadow" pairs snarling, sitar-laced rock with delicately trippy interludes is still striking; "Last Desire"'s sexy stomp gives a harder, irresistibly catchy edgy to their sound; and "Beatings"' spooky heartache is bolstered by clever wordplay and dramatic production that sounds ethereal and driving at the same time. Elsewhere, Coves' flair for drama sometimes outpaces their ability to write memorable songs, but "Soft Friday's" best moments are so good, and its overall sound is so vibrant, that it's a more than promising debut. -- Heather Phares, All Music Guide
Ariana Grande, 'My Everything'
Rating: Our Rating
When "My Everything" arrived as the summer of 2014 drew to a close, it was clear that Ariana Grande was poised to be the reigning pop diva of the mid-decade. Possessed with greater vocal chops than any of her peers -- her effortless runs revealed the limitations of Katy Perry and Rihanna -- she luxuriated in her debt to Mariah Carey on her 2013 debut "Yours Truly," working mainly with Babyface to re-create the vibe and feel of the '90s. On "My Everything," Grande takes a decisive step into the future, breaking away from Babyface so she can bring in a host of modern producers -- Max Martin, Shellback, David Guetta, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder, Darkchild, and Pop & Oak among them -- not to mention a parade of guest stars highlighted by Iggy Azalea, A$AP Ferg, the Weeknd, Childish Gambino, Zedd, and Big Sean. All this suggests Grande is resolved to inhabit her time, which is true. She remains anchored in '90s soul on "My Everything" -- and it's hard to deny her love of Mariah, although Ariana rarely indulges in the high-flying melisma that's her idol's specialty -- but there are serious EDM flourishes and a facility with hip-hop, something that's showcased via the countless cameos that eat up the midsection of the album. At times, all these performers threaten to overshadow Grande because, for as skilled a singer as she is, her precision isn't necessarily charismatic; she seems determined to hit her marks and her diligence leaves plenty of space for her guests to suck up the spotlight, whether it's Iggy swooping in on "Problem" or the Weeknd on "Love Me Harder." Often, these cameos are used as flair -- not dissimilar to the washes of analog synths, the "I'm Coming Out" sample on "Break Your Heart Right Back," or stuttering EDM beats -- on songs that keep focus on the melodies Grande delivers with exacting grace. Ultimately, this emphasis on song is to the benefit of "My Everything." Perhaps Grande doesn't embody the songs the way an old-fashioned diva would, but she functions as a likeable pop ringleader, stepping aside when the track calls for it and then unleashing a full-throated wail when it's her time to shine. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
Brad Paisley, 'Moonshine in the Trunk'
Rating: Our Rating
Ambition got the better of Brad Paisley on 2013's "Wheelhouse," coaxing him into the briar patch that was "Accidental Racist" -- an ill-conceived cross-cultural duet with LLCool J which generated a flurry of headlines that camouflaged how the album straight-up flopped on country radio. "Wheelhouse" was Paisley's first record since "Play" not to go gold, and even that is misleading because that 2008 effort was an instrumental album and those never sell in large numbers; subtract that from his stats and the 2013 record achieves the ignoble status of his first-ever album not to reach gold and, perhaps more importantly, his first not to generate a number one single. Paisley slyly alludes to this slump, singing "I guess I've been in a dry spell, but that's about to change" on "Crushin' It," the opening track of his 2014 album "Moonshine in the Trunk," a phrasing that suggests his dip in sales lasted longer than a year -- which, in a way, it has. His sales started decreasing around the time of the open-hearted, far-ranging "American Saturday Night," so perhaps it's no surprise that he's attempting to turn back the clock on "Moonshine in the Trunk," stripping back all his experimentations and declining every detour so he winds up with a record that could function as a de facto sequel to 2007's 5th Gear. Moonshine in the Trunk is all gleaming steel, hard edges, sleek rhythms, and power ballads, state-of-the-art modern country that doesn't dare make a big deal of any of Paisley's eccentricities outside of his squealing guitar. Restless guy that he is, Paisley doesn't quite abandon every one of his quirks: specifically, he plays around with rhythm, setting "Crushin' It" to a thumping disco beat, pushing "River Bank" along to a stuttering syncopation, and underscoring "Limes" to an electronic loop. These dance-friendly beats go down smoothly because the emphasis is on the twang of the Telecaster and Paisley's drawl, signatures as prominent as his sense of humor which also surfaces on "Moonshine in the Trunk" -- quite genially on "Going Green," a wry tale of a redneck choosing to sacrifice for the sake of the environment, and quite nastily on "High Life," where a bunch of white trash sue their way toward millions. No matter how much he rhapsodizes about the logos across the caps in this great "Country Nation," these two novelties suggest where Paisley's sympathies lie: he's too smart, too worldly to pander to his base, so he'll take sly jabs and disguise his wide-eyed futurism within the nostalgia of "American Flag on the Moon." Most of all, he's savvy enough to know when to play it safe, which he does throughout "Moonshine in the Trunk," turning out high-octane, highly enjoyable songs about trucks, water, speed, and making out with girls who don't realize they're beautiful enough to be a model. This is, for want of a better word, his wheelhouse, and while he may not be leaving his comfort zone here, "Moonshine in the Trunk" proves his strengths remain mighty potent. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
The New Pornographers, 'Brill Bruisers'
Rating: Our Rating
Some bands aim for a grand, widescreen sound when they go into the studio, but the New Pornographers refuse to be satisfied with anything short of 3-D IMAX, with their songs accompanied by thundering drums, massive cascades of keyboards, towering vocal choruses, and chugging, percussive melodies that power it all. It would be easy for the New Pornographers to sound absurdly ostentatious if it weren't for the fact there's a fiercely beating heart in the midst of their music, and at their best, the indie supergroup seems to be having a grand time constructing their walls of sound. 2014's "Brill Bruisers" is a suitably grandiose follow-up to 2010's "Together," and the fact it took seven different recording studios to assemble tells you something about the album's sonic ambition, but A.C. Newman's tunes are graceful, clever, and catchy despite their size, like a blimp that easily floats with the breeze, and the vocals from Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, and Kathryn Calder bring both drama and passion to this music. (Bejar's three songs seem a good bit more compact than Newman's, especially the lean and paranoid "Spyder," but even that finds room for a manic drum break and some wailing harmonica). As is this group's habit, "Brill Bruisers" is lyrically cryptic, but while there seems to be a dour edge to most of the verbiage, the music is usually upbeat when the melodic hooks take hold, and with Kelly Hogan contributing guest vocals on four tracks, this singing powerhouse sounds more impressive than ever. If you have a grand desire to take on the world and want a suitable indie rock soundtrack, "Brill Bruisers" will certainly do the trick, and if this isn't the best effort to date from the New Pornographers, it most certainly doesn't disappoint. -- Mark Deming, All Music Guide
more new this week
Photo gallery: Classic rock photos
more on msn music
Miranda Lambert/Pharrell Williams/Janelle Monae
See highlights from this summers' biggest current tours and festivals
Ed Sheeran: From touring with Taylor to a single with Pharrell, British troubadour navigates to pop's mainstream
Most memorable BET moments: Check out six highlights from the 2014 awards' nearly four hour event
Courtney on Kurt: His widow and Hole front woman reveals Cobain was "desperate" to achieve rock stardom
Prince reigns: The funk-rock-pop wizard reveals another full-length set ready to roll out for fans
featured video