This week is a tad short, with three new albums – two from huge draws in Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum, and one of my favorite bands, the French group Phoenix. Who has the best comeback of the three? (They all had nearly four years each between their last albums and this week’s releases). Look below to find out!
Lady Antebellum – Heart Break
Like much of rhythm and blues, rap and house music, I have some difficulty ascertaining whether some country music is better than others. Luckily, Heart Break starts out strong, drawing you in with their title song, that contains one of the snappiest choruses I’ve heard recently – “I’m single for the summer / I won’t rebound / One lover to another / I’ll be tied down”. Those rather simple lyrics are made all the better by frontwoman Hilary Scott, someone who has always made country seem accesible for neophytes like myself. Following her up, fellow Charlie Kelley duets over the single “You Look Good” and proves that Scott isn’t the only moneymaker for the band. The band dials it down subsequently, proving that the composition of this album is its greatest component. While the lyrics and vocals and instrumentals are certainly top-notch for country standards, the producer deserves some of the most credit, as the order of songs clearly lends this album for repeat listens.
Key Tracks: Heart Break / Think About You / Good Time to Be Alive
Katy Perry – Witness
A lot has changed for the songstress that once took us into the secret that she had kissed a girl. As often follows a breakout hit, there was a bit of dissolution of the original image, attempts at reconfiguring the brand as edgy, missteps at appropriating other cultures, and of course, the vaunted resurgence at a major awards show compounded with a stellar album release. Now that Katy Perry has gone through all the typical motions of our modern pop star, she’s ready to deliver some of her best work. Unfortunately for us, she’s up to some of her old problems – buying into the idea that production knows best for her, redrafting her as a Miley Cyrus-wannabe who longs to sing like Adele. In tracks like “Pendulum” she gospelizing in front of a clapping choir. In “Deja Vu” and the titular “Witness”, Perry tries to posture as a burnt love victim, although most of her cred stems from her being the firebrand in past relationships. Don’t even get me started on “Bon Appetit”, which you can see in the rather strange video above tries to sensualize Perry in an even stranger way than before. As she sings “I’m spread open like a buffet” her eyes bug out like she’s still on the candy-coated dream cloud set of “California Girls”. Do we want a mature Perry, whose sultry vocals can lend themselves to a moody revelation lyrically? I’m fine with her having fun, it certainly worked for Madonna, who she’s almost always emulated. If she sticks to that, she’s great. When attempting to co-opt others, she isn’t. It’s as simple as that.
Key Tracks: Save As Draft / Miss You More / Chained to the Rhythm
Phoenix – Ti Amo
Thomas Mars and company hit it big way back in 2009 with their one-two punch of Lisztomania / 1901, rocketing them to indie stardom. In the right years since, Phoenix released one album and merely cultivated their following by touring and helping our hearts grow fonder in their absence. With Ti Amo, the group re-establishes themselves as the crown princes of manic dance pop, sorely missed in this era of music (from male singers at least). From the start at the title track, we’re immersed back into the slick cool world of Phoenix, bracketed on both sides with am urge to dance until the sun comes up two days from now. The sense of unending joy isn’t futile here, as evidenced in lyrics like “I found out your motive / I could do this all day long / But just a minute, that’s all I want”. While most of the album is in English, Mars forays into both Spanish and his native French. Much like Shakira two weeks ago, you don’t need to know the languages he sings, as you can feel every emotion through the way he sings.
Key Tracks: Goodbye Soleil / Role Model / Fior de Latte
Next week we’ll get the return of Cheap Trick, a long-awaited album from Fleet Foxes, a highly anticipated release from Lorde, and most importantly the latest music from a little Canadian band….Nickelback. I know you’ll be the first back here next Tuesday to hear what we thought at Interjections!