This is the first of a new series of posts giving a quick review of new albums for the week. It will be based on first-listen reactions and in no way guarantees that’s how the album will be perceived six months from now.
Here’s what I’ve listened to so far from this week:
Lupe Fiasco – “Lasers”
This is one of the best albums of the year thus far. It’s a mature hip-hop album with several other elements mixed in. Lupe explores the world in several lenses about human understanding, racism, fame and anything other issue that comes up in life or the media. It’s important to remember the acronym Lupe coined when coming up with the title of the album:
“Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile”
Avril Lavigne – “Goodbye Lullabye”
Avril hasn’t gone completely bubble-gum pop. The melodic, more serious songs were a pleasant surprise, but it had all been done before. Props to her for fighting with her record company and getting the album to the way she intended. She continues to write all her own music, which is admirable for a stand-alone pop artist. Even with the serious tone of the album, some fun is mixed in.
R.E.M. – “Collapse into Now”
If you take out all the hits from R.E.M.’s repertoire, this is probably what you get. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. On the bright side, if you are a fan of R.E.M., you should be more than satisfied. Though there are individual songs that stand out (Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I, and It Happened Today), it’s just hard to see a casual music listener engage the whole album. That said, “Collapse into Now” fits the mold of a traditional “album,” meaning you should listen to it all the way through.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As this blog develops, the hardest challenge I’m faced with is reviewing country music. How does it stand out from all the rest? How can it break the mold of the past 20 years? Country is the least progressive genre of music and I have to write something fresh about each new album? The task is daunting, but I’m going to try my darndest.
Sara Evans – “Stronger”
Songs from this album were apparently prominent in the movie “Country Strong” starring Gwyneth Paltrow. With that, Sara has compiled a collection of tracks that most people can relate to with these love-loss and inner-strength stories. For what country music is, this is enjoyable and flexible enough for multiple situational uses.
Children of Bodom – “Relentless, Reckless Forever”
Whoa. Vocals aside, this album uses some sick-nasty metal riffs and other sounds that just epic. Those guitar riffs stand tall over the whole album, so much so that this could be a solid instrumental album. The blunt trauma to your head does get tiring at times. And seeing as every heavy metal album has the same screaming vocals, we don’t need to discuss those.