Album reviews

The Time Out music team gives its verdict on new album releases

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Britney Spears
Britney Jean

  • Rated as: 3/5

Release date: December 3, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Britney Spears is selling her eighth studio album as her "most personal" ever—quite a claim considering Britney Jean has pop numpty Will.i.am as its executive producer and the ludicrous "Work Bitch" as its lead single. However, when the album begins with Spears singing "I was lonely then/Like an alien" over a gorgeous production by Madonna’s "Ray of Light" collaborator William Orbit, hopes are raised—albeit briefly. Read more »


Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound

  • Rated as: 5/5

Release date: December 3, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Ten years ago, a young A&R man, an ex–advertising exec and a crate digger formed the Numero Group. Starting in a Chicago apartment, the three exhumed forgotten music, mostly soul, and reissued it in identically packaged compilations—to look like a library of hidden gems on your record shelf. In the decade since, Numero has earned Grammy nominations, has had its music as the crux of a Ryan Gosling romance, and has released dozens of LPs in its popular Eccentric Soul series. With the luxe book-and-records bundle Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, the local label has perfected its niche form of documenting American subculture. Read more »


Milosh
Jetlag

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: November 26, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Michael Milosh's voice is a mesmerizing instrument. It has the timbre of a reeded woodwind and can remove clothing faster than an EMT's scissors. Imagine leaning into someone's ear and delivering this line: "Our bodies collide and come alive." You or I couldn't do it. You and I would sound ridiculous. (I am presuming Trey Songz is not reading this.) Milosh, an androgynous Canadian R&B crooner, cannot only pull off this blunt foreplay with ease, he makes it haunting. Read more »


Jake Bugg
Shangri La

  • Rated as: 1/5

Release date: November 18, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Jake Bugg, precocious 19-year-old British troubadour, has dubbed his slapdash sophomore album Shangri La. With earnestness. With enough earnestness to summon platinum wizard Rick Rubin from the Hollywood Hills as producer. That's an emergency move reserved for 40-year-old rappers and sexagenerian rockers, not 19-year-old wunderkinds. Read more »


Lady Gaga
Artpop

  • Rated as: 3/5

Release date: November 8, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Lust, sex, drugs, fashion. Why, yes, it is another Lady Gaga album. This one’s called Artpop, Gaga’s third studio album, an ambitious 15-track extravaganza. The album mainly fluctuates between mainstream pop and Gaga’s weird take on pop, with loads of EDM and club beats. There's even a brief venture into hip-hop, “Jewels N’ Drugs,” featuring T.I., Too $hort and Twista. On the other end of the spectrum is “Dope, ” the token ballad of the album and its deepest cut. A relapsing addict pleads for a friend to stay, “Don’t leave me, I / Oh I will hate myself until I die.” It’s a beautiful return to the essence of what made Gaga great: a killer voice on the piano. Read more »


M.I.A.
Matangi

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: November 5, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

M.I.A. is the closest thing the L.A. record industry has to Pacific Rim. Matangi, the provacative cult star's fourth and most assured album, blends hip-hop, reggae, bhangra, gaana, dubstep, sha'abi, Arab pop, R&B, moombahton, Goa trance, trap, zef and good old Yankee stripper fuel. You know, what music in the world actually sounds like. That's nothing entirely new for M.I.A. The big development here is how homogeneous it all sounds now. Read more »


Eminem
The Marshall Mathers LP 2

  • Rated as: 3/5

Release date: November 5, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

As a general rule, rap sequels aren’t sequels at all—they’re lazily conceived marketing ploys that fall into one of two categories: pathetic attempts to relive past glories or successful attempts to relive past glories. Full credit to Eminem, then, for crafting a sequel that relates to its predecessor in more than just name. Read more »


Arcade Fire
Reflektor

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: October 29, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

In the Chinese tradition, 2013 is the year of the snake—marked by transformation, a shedding of the skin. This certainly holds true for Arcade Fire’s fourth album, a record that signals a major shift in sonic direction for the band—just as it held true for Kanye West’s Yeezus in June. Read more »


Sky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: October 29, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

The album cover to Sky Ferreira's debut full-length is icky. Let's just get that out of the way. The 21-year-old stands naked in a green tile shower. Mascara runs under her downcast eyes. Water plasters her blond hair against her head. A gold cross hangs between her bare breasts. She is behind glass. She gazes off to the upper right, halfway between cowering and contempt. A hand has wiped the condensation from the door to better view her. She looks as happy as a cat getting a bath. Read more »


Katy Perry
Prism

  • Rated as: 2/5

Release date: October 18, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

"Roar" is a red herring. The chest-beating stomper is not indicative of the music on Prism, the fourth studio album from blow-up sweetheart Katy Perry. The bulk of the record is softer and more flowery on the senses than the goopy lavendar chemicals you pour into your washing machine. Much of the new music seems like atonement for her whipped-cream-tits era, as if those candy-porn tactics of Teenage Dream were only meant to rocket Ms. Perry to an unloseable level of success from which she can broadcast her true calling—mega-church balladry. Read more »


Poliça
Shulamith

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: October 18, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Channy Leaneagh, the deceptively angel-faced vocalist with Minneapolis band Poliça, has been at the five-word review game. She describes their second album, "Shulamith", thus: "Drums. Bass. Synth. Me, woman." Critics beware: she has this thing nailed. Like The XX’s eagerly anticipated 2012 album "Coexist", Polica’s second offering doesn’t startle with a shocking new sound, because it doesn’t need to—they already did that on the first album. Instead "Shulamith" picks up where Poliça left off with "Give You the Ghost", continuing to perfect their idiosyncratic, haunting brand of… well, drums, bass and synth. Read more »


Pearl Jam
Lightning Bolt

  • Rated as: 3/5

Release date: October 14, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

This month sees the release of Pearl Jam’s actual tenth album, Lightning Bolt. Since Ten, the group’s sound has ebbed and flowed through mediocrity and decency, garage rock and new wave—not to mention lead singer Eddie Vedder’s 2011 release Ukulele Songs, a curious musical unification of Hawaii and Seattle. Recorded over two years, Lightning Bolt sheds any vestiges of these bizarre experimentations and embraces back-to-basics, Ten-style PJ: a merging of energetic punk and surging classic rock, all smoothed over with some moments of placidity. Read more »


Lorde
Pure Heroine

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: September 27, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Lorde is a hard one to pin down. She’s a 16-year-old singer-songwriter who, thanks to the brilliant "Royals" already has a US Number One single to her name. But despite the success of "Royals" and the fact she signed a record company development deal some three years ago, the word "precocious" doesn’t suit this striking, dark-haired girl from the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand. Lorde’s voice is husky but still young-sounding, like a teenager who’s stayed up all night talking and necking vodka, and this makes her little insights even more compelling. Read more »


Haim
Days Are Gone

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: September 27, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Californian sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim appear on their album cover sitting in deck chairs, wearing sunglasses. They’re taking it easy: something they do a lot of. Even their most bitterly romantic songs like "Better Off" and "Forever" are funkified to the point where the nights spent crying that inspired them are distant memories—or at least have been repressed by piña coladas. Read more »


Icona Pop
This Is… Icona Pop

  • Rated as: 3/5

Release date: September 24, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

Icona Pop’s summer chart-topper "I Love It" is a brilliant pop single: instantly thrilling, totally distinctive and a little bit edgy. (For better or worse, hearing the word "bitch" in a pop song still feels titillating—just ask Britney Spears.) The problem now for this likeable Swedish duo is following it up, and—perhaps inevitably—their worldwide debut album contains nothing else quite as undeniable. Read more »


Chvrches
The Bones of What You Believe

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: September 23, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

The Bones of What You Believe is the debut album by Chvrches, and for those who picked up early on this rather talented trio from Glasgow it must have seemed a long time coming—especially given the levels of hype that have surrounded the band. It has all the raw energy you would expect from a first outing, yet there is also a brash confidence which permeates every synth stab and cymbal crash. It is really quite something. Read more »


Janelle Monáe
The Electric Lady

  • Rated as: 4/5

Release date: September 10, 2013  |  Download on iTunes  |  Download on Amazon

We’d love to think that, at some point, one of Janelle Monáe’s brilliantly eccentric slices of psychedelic R&B will propel her towards massive global fame. With her concept albums about cyborgs, endless stylistic shape-shifting and general air of wild upredictability, the singer from Atlanta would make a fantastic pop star. "The Electric Lady" is the latest dispatch from Planet Monáe, and continues her enjoyably baffling "Metropolis" series of high-concept records, which she’s been making since 2007. Read more »



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