Beyoncé defies expectations
Beyonce, “Beyonce” (Columbia)
Though she certainly doesn’t need the press, Beyonce’s self-titled new album is a daring, and notable, pop album. Through 14 tracks and 17 accompanying music videos, the Houston-raised singer proves that she still rules not just pop but R&B; — and that she might be absorbing husband Jay Z’s way around a rhymed stanza. At times it’s progressive: “Haunted” during a break feels like Madonna’s “Ray of Light” sessions, chopped-and-screwed Houston-style. She’s brash on “Partition” — “I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker” — and syrupy on “Flawless,” a bass-heavy crawl through Southern bounce. “Superpower” channels doo-wop and features a gem of a hook by Frank Ocean. Best, the star proves she’s as uninterested in coasting as she is with expectations.
Various artists, “American Hustle” soundtrack (Sony/Legacy)
Will all the hooha surrounding the Coen brothers’ use of music in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the fantastic cues that carry the action in David O. Russell’s madcap “American Hustle” deserve just as much ink. Russell and music supervisor Susan Jacobs picked an illuminating and consistently surprising collection of songs to drive scenes, and they translate well as a mixtape. In addition to deep cuts from Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Jones (“Delilah”) and Lebanese singer Mayssa Karaa’s wild version of “White Rabbit” that outdoes the original, the film features high-profile uses of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” by the Bee Gees. Christian Bale’s reaction as shyster Irving Rosenfeld to listening to Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues” is priceless. You’ll never hear the song the same way again.
Milosh, “Jet Lag” (eOne/Deadly)
Fans of last year’s seductive album by Rhye, “Woman,” which channeled quiet-storm disco and Sade-inspired R&B; to create candlelit beauty, will immediately recognize vocalist Michael Milosh. On his new solo album, “Jet Lag,” though, the Canadian-born, L.A.-based musician wraps that voice around tones and rhythms with more synthetic origins. Longtime fans won’t be surprised; Milosh has been exploring this world for a while. “Skipping” features skittering high hats, a synth-pop melody and Milosh’s falsetto layered, filtered and looped. The piano ballad “Slow Down” is a delicate meditation on time.
Burial, “Rival Dealer” (Hyperdub)
Mysterious British electronic producer William Bevan, who records as Burial, knows how to mesmerize. These three new rhythmic tracks feel like experimental films, typically eerie and bass heavy, vast like a cathedral at some points and at others like a doorless dungeon. At 13 minutes, “Come Down to Us” is a breathtaking composition, slow-tempoed and haunting with pitch-shifted vocals and mid-track reversals and diversions that climax with a grand chorus worthy of an Eminem hook.
Everly Brothers, “Walk Right Back: The Everly Brothers on Warner Bros. 1960-1969.” (Warner Bros.)
Those stumped and staring at the open maw of your streaming service’s search window would be advised to find “Walk Right Back.” The two-volume collection of Everlys songs begins where their classic late-1950s hits end. Sure, this features early ‘60s pearls like “Cathy’s Clown,” but it mostly focuses on the period after the British Invasion stormed America, when the brothers faded from the charts. As “Walk Right Back” reminds, though, the pair didn’t stop making great music. In fact, songs like “How Can I Meet Her?” and “Radio and TV” are as infectious and memorable as anything their disciples were making at the time. “Gone Gone Gone” is killer, as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss confirmed when they memorably covered it. “I’m Moving On” channels Bo Diddley and country rock. Originally released in the 1990s, this is an essential piece of the Everly puzzle.
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