Bogged down by the cold weather? Treading water till your new New Year’s resolution? Well never fear, there’s more music to distract you from the never-ending torment that is reality!
Taylor Swift – Reputation
I don’t know that you’ll ever find anyone more divisive than Taylor Swift in the world of pop culture today. Everybody has a hot take on her reputation, and she seems as though there is a heavily cultivated image set forth by her label and other people. Naturally, Miss Swift has made it super difficult for a simple blogger like myself to obtain her music in order to review. Not that I put a lot of effort in, but coming to write this, I found that there were no ways to even stream a full song other than hoping for songs to come back around with iHeartRadio’s “Reputation Radio” station. It took over four hours and several repeats of “Wildest Dreams”, “Back to December” and “Love Story”. Suffice it to say, that’s a much more annoying way to take in Reputation than I would have liked, but it didn’t cause the work to suffer. Despite the tracks being wildly out of order, I discerned the centerpieces. You might already be well aware of the “I’m Too Sexy” sampling “Look What You Made Me Do” or the recent single release “…Ready for It?” I’ve heard from many friends that this is clearly a forced attempt at darkening her image like Katy Perry did last album with 2013’s Prism and “Dark Horse”. If that’s the case, then it’s shamefully dull of her to copycat. I think she’s still trying to discover where, as a major pop artist, she’ll stand in the echelon of pop culture. I think there are certainly better artists, and Swift herself has done much better (1989 is her best). It was always going to be an uphill battle with the paparazzi, culture and generally because it’s a follow-up to 1989. There are definite bright spots, but this may be forgettable in a year. The irony is that much of the good stuff was written and produced by Bleachers/Fun/superwriter Jack Antonoff, including the best song “Getaway Car” which has several lyrics and beats that seem ripped right out of his own “I Wanna Get Better”. If that’s the case, it’s shameful too, but I kind of don’t mind. She’s still fun, at least, if a bit over-processed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some lunch at McDonald’s
Key Tracks: New Year’s Day / Getaway Car / King of My Heart
Jennifer Lopez – Amor Amor Amor
One artist I’m surprised I’ve missed is Jennifer Lopez. A stalwart of my high school years, as her image was repeatedly up whenever flashing by MTV – particularly the afternoon benchmark TRL – she sort of faded away from my radar after 2005’s Rebirth. I recall her popping up now and again, particularly as a judge for five of the later seasons of American Idol. I always admired her, especially as an actress (Selena is great), but I never really kept up with her music in the post-TRL universe. I’m glad she’s wrapped herself up in her Hispanic heritage with songs like this, sort of like Shakira has always maintained a Spanish-language first mentality. As for the song itself, it’s catchy and pumped me up on first listen. I could see this getting a lot of airwave time, so perhaps Lopez will re-emerge in my mind for this next album, Por Primera Vez.
Sleigh Bells – Kid Kruschev
This mostly seems like b-sides to last year’s phenomenal album Jessica Rabbit. Many of the tracks could be inserted anywhere in that and not seem out of place. I’m perfectly happy with it, because it’s seven new songs from singer-songwriter Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller. Oh, okay – I looked it up, and apparently the duo moved out of Brooklyn and can’t stop creating music. In addition, Miller says that they “like the idea of putting out shorter records at a more consistent rate, so we’re gonna give it a shot for a while, see how it feels”. Hey, if that means more Sleigh Bells on an annual basis, I am definitely behind it. If you love the band, this is easily worth it.
Key Tracks: And Saints / Florida Thunderstorm
Walk the Moon – What If Nothing
With the megahit “Shut Up and Dance” forcing the band into one-hit wonder discussions, there’s a lot riding on this follow-up to 2014’s breakout Talking Is Hard . Lead vocalist Nicholas Petricca starts off by stretching his vocals, lowering the bass in “Headphones” in order to mirror their high-range dance songs of the previous album. Don’t worry, they haven’t lost their rhythm tenderness, as the next two tracks “One Foot” and “Surrender” prove. If you’re new to them, think of the band as a little cousin to Imagine Dragons.
Key Tracks: One Foot / Kamikaze / Can’t Sleep (Wolves)
Evanescence – Synthesis
This is a neat oddity for Evanescence fans – the group has reworked much of their best material, and rather than forcing a best of album, they’ve crafted a remix version in the best veins of their genre. Lacrymosa now has violins and dripping pianos behind the original synth and vocals. Bring Me to Life is entirely different, orchestrally symphonic – the piece is like a prog version a metal butterfly emerged from the cocoon of their hiatus. It’s not a lot of new material, but people who grew up with Amy Lee’s melodic vocalizations will be enamored with this post-Halloween treat.
Key Tracks: Bring Me to Life / Imperfection (original song!) / Lithium
Seal – Standards
What’s with everyone getting into doing the classics? Recently it was former French first lady Carla Bruni, a year ago it was Bob Dylan. To each his own, I guess, and it’s usually a quick hit with fans and a nice cash grab, even when you’re actually a fan of the standards you’re singing. Seal sounds solid here, and he certainly has always had the chops to perform these songs. Of those recent performers, he’s easily the best. Heck, I want him to do another album already.
Key Tracks: Luck Be A Lady / Autumn Leaves / I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Apparently next week we’re seeing the Revival of Eminem, that Trump-slaying raconteur, and we’ll be getting some Blue Lips from songstress Tove Lo. We’re also finally into the Christmas season, as Sia has an Xmas album, while we’ll finally review Gwen Stefani’s month-old dip into the holidays. Stay tuned…