Black Friday and Cyber Monday just came and went, so that must mean we've just hit Trashy, Tawdry, Two-Bit or Terrible Tuesday! Take your pick!
That's right! From now until the end of the year, album releases that didn't already hit the stores in time for the Thanksgiving weekend are either second-rate cash-ins, "problem releases" that couldn't make a simple deadline--or, sadly, simply unfortunate!
Yep, like everyone else in the world, I just did all my holiday shopping last weekend, so there's no chance I'll be buying anything else!
However, in the interest of fairness, what say we give this week's new releases a quick once-over before we decide they're of no value whatsoever?
Allison Iraheta: Just Like You (19/Jive) Let's say you're at college and you have a brand new roommate from Indonesia who's a real music fan! By the end of the semester, like it or not, you're going to have opinions about artists you never even knew existed last year! And so it is that I, too, have developed opinions about the many participants in television's fabulous American Idol show, and one such opinion is this: This young woman's first single, album opener "Friday I'll Be Over You," may be the best thing I've ever heard coming from any of that show's participants! A refreshing blast of '80s-inspired teen pop? You bet! Capped with songs bearing titles I myself would have submitted had the show's producers asked--specifically "Robot Love" and "Beat Me Up"--Just Like You isn't bad in the slightest! I can't wait to hear it again and again and again!
Il Divo: An Evening With Il Divo--Live In Barcelona (SYCO/Sony) Favorites of that "new breed" of music fan--you know, the ones with three ears who live close to power lines--Il Divo are an international sensation, and not unjustly! They are known to provide memorable vocal treatments to standards such as "Unchained Melody," "Amazing Grace," My Way," and even the Moody Blues' sentimental favorite "Nights In White Satin"! Here, however, the decision to literally provide a sample evening with the vocal group is puzzling! One track features a band member at home, apparently watching a Planet Earth DVD while taking phone calls from a Spanish-speaking friend; another features someone else--the Swiss guy, probably--seemingly driving in a convertible with the top down and stopping at a fast food drive-through; most puzzling of all may be the extended track near the disc's end in which we can hear muffled sobs and a man moaning, apparently in the throes of self-doubt! Personally, I'd rather spend an evening with them onstage, but that may just be me!
R. Kelly: Untitled (Jive) In many ways a modern-day Shakespeare, R. Kelly lives the life most of us can only dream about! With its large Parental Advisory sticker strategically concealing whether the colorful R&B singer is wearing the Bermuda shorts he typically favors, Untitled tells a story unlike any other album in this blog! The drama unfolds from opening track "Crazy Night," continues through the profound "Bangin' The Headboard," gets a little kinky with "Be My #2"--yikes!--moves toward the inevitable "Religious," then closes, as most classic albums do, with a track entitled "Pregnant"! Only with repeated listenings does it become clear that the real end of the story is told early on, with track 2's "Exit"--but heck, he probably thought, why be offensive? He's cool that way!
The Bravery: Stir The Blood (Island) Boy, I don't know about you, but if I was in a band and just put my heart and soul into making a new album, I'd be awfully bummed to see that the only review of it on Amazon--a site where potential consumers can lay down actual cash for music--contains the following passage: "Whether it's Endicott's tired, cliché-ridden lyrics or the recycled sounds the band routinely beats to death, Stir The Blood more often than not resembles the musical equivalent of a used condom, a slimy piece of work that left me wincing in disgust more often than not." Give the guys a break, dude! One of 'em is writing hits for Shakira, two of 'em just started a clothing line "making high-end suits," and take a look at those hot chicks on the album cover! They're doing everything right!
Love: Love Lost (Sundazed) An unexpected surprise here from the late Arthur Lee, who with his then-current version of Love made these recordings ostensibly for Columbia Records in 1971--but never saw them released in his lifetime. Not his best work, but for fans, this nicely fills in the gap between his final Blue Thumb album with Love, False Start, and his rip-roaring A&M solo album Vindicator. Featuring bassist Frank Fayad, guitarist Craig Tarwater and drummer Don Poncher, the album is similarly hard-rocking thanks to Tarwater, but a number of interesting acoustic demos prove an interesting contrast and a preview of what would come both with Vindicator and the later, "final" Love album, Reel To Real. Personally, this is the only version of Love I ever saw performing live, and I'm more than happy to hear them again. Check it out!
Enya: The Very Best Of Enya (Warner Bros.) As winter approaches, so too does the music of Enya--soothing, sweet, lulling, peaceful, recognized by iTunes as being in the "New Age" genre, and the sort of thing you can buy for your mom and dad over the holidays that'll make them stop asking you those embarrassing questions about your love life and stupid career choices! With a remastered version of her "Orinoco Flow" and a holiday-inspired bonus track, this album will warm your heart and mine! Too bad she got eaten by that big red jellyfish!
Priscilla Renea: Jukebox (Capitol) One of the rising tide of young artists who got a record deal via her appearances on YouTube shortly before YouTube bankrupted all the record labels--whoops!--young Floridian Ms. Renea is all over the place stylistically, a pop-leaning enthusiast with a sense of humor and enough self-awareness to recognize that she ain't a doll and this ain't a dollhouse, as her catchy first single would have it! I wish her the best, and if this music thing doesn't work out, she's welcome to help me file albums in my garage!
Fever Ray: Fever Ray Deluxe Edition (2CD/DVD) (Mute) Fever Ray is actually Karin Dreijer Andersson, one-half of hipster combo the Knife, and she's so good she released this "deluxe" edition of the same album she just put out in March! Cool! Featuring the original album plus two bonus tracks, a live CD, and a DVD filled with--in a stunning turn--videos, Fever Ray Deluxe Edition is a great value for fans and foes like! The same label just released a similar package with Moby's most recent album, so clearly they're onto something: Next year, box sets might work, too!
Thalia: Thalia En Primera Fila (Sony International) Thalia is of course a popular Mexican superstar, and this live document, recorded earlier this year in Miami, is as good an example as any of her enormous appeal! Interestingly, the title does not translate to Thalia Is One Prime Filly! Weird!
Juvenile: Cocky & Confident (UTP/Atlantic) New Orleans rapper Juvenile returns with a new batch of great tunes including the yin/yang pairing "We Be Getting Money" and "My Money Don't Fold," apparently detailing his earlier life as a bank teller filling empty coin rolls! No wonder he's cocky!