Saturday, October 05, 2013

MIXTAPE: Q4 Album Release Frenzy with Travis, Janelle, Lorde, HAIM, JT and Cher

It's officially -- the end of the year is in sight and that means every major artist (and their mother, it seems) is putting out something for us to devour and enjoy. I've been neglecting my duties as a music blogger but that stops now. Here are the albums you need to check into and why...

TRAVIS GARLAND - Travis Garland
Key Tracks: "Abby Lee", "Clouds", "Other People", "Homewrecker", "Blue Electric Roses"
It was a looooong time coming, as I've enumerated more times than I can count on the blog but the former NLT crooner finally has a disc to call his own. Previously released "Abby Lee" and "Homewrecker" were already standouts but the full set features lots of new instant classics, especially the Bruno Mars-esque "Other People". It's not quite your typical post-breakup I-Still-Love-You tune; the chorus stands apart as true poetry.

JANELLE MONAE - The Electric Lady
Key Tracks: "Givin Em What They Love", "Electric Lady", "Q.U.E.E.N.", "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes"
A surefire contender for serious Grammy's this year (and undisputed best cover art in a long time), Janelle's long-awaited followup is chockfull of amazing. I mean, it has feature tags with Prince, Miguel, Solange, Erykah Badu and Esperanza Spalding -- a literal who's who in the soulful artist market. Every song is lush with real instrumentation. Janelle is one of the few artists who really get the LP album format.

HAIM - Days Are Gone
Key Tracks: "Falling", "The Wire", "Honey & I", "Don't Save Me", "Let Me Go"
In a mainstream market, HAIM offers itself up as something refreshing and exciting. Their music is still very Top 40 friendly but recall a by-gone era of the late 70's (hence their huge Fleetwood Mac influence). It's really rewarding to hear actual instruments beneath harmonies, isn't it. They would be so bananas to see live -- fingers crossed that day comes for yours truly soon.

LORDE - Pure Heroine 
Key Tracks: "Royals", "Tennis Courts", "Team", "Glory and Gore", "Ribs"
I can't really explain Lorde's appeal to a mass market, but I don't think it's totally unlike that of HAIM. She's absolutely a reactionary force to the explosion of EDM-flavored dance pop that has dominated for the past few years and the result is a mixed bag -- if you love her, you love her. If you can't dig it, you just don't get it at all (and that's okay, too -- obvs). It will be interesting to see if she can acquire lasting appeal here in the US -- I sincerely hope she won't flame out to be 2013/2014's Carly Rae Jepsen.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2
Key Tracks:
"Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)", "True Blood", "TKO", "Take Back the Night"
Hearing the rest of what JT had up his sleeve for 20/20 was a little anticlimactic and showed, to me anyway, that 1 of 2 ages well with time ("Pusher Love Girl" has become a staple after several rotations). Maybe the same will be said of 2 of 2 in a few months. Much of what is featured here is very familiar fare, complete with Timabaland vocal percussions. Funky "True Blood" stands out and really cooks (but like most of the fare on 20/20 could be trimmed and tightened up). However, while much of 1 of 2 offered that "Suit & Tie" sheen, a few on 2 of 2 argue a more gritty, borderline bluesy-country feel, like with "Drink You Away" and "Only When I Walk Away". Afterall, he's a "Tennessee Kid".

CHER - Closer To The Truth
Key Tracks: "Woman's World", "Take It Like A Man", "Dressed To Kill", "I Walk Alone"
I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Cher really is iconic and the flavors of her long and varied musical career are all present and accounted for here. Handclappy "I Walk Alone" might be my absolute favorite -- it was co-written by P!NK and sounds like it could have fit right in on The Truth About Love.

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