With Random Access Memories(out today, ), Daft Punk’s first non-Tron related new music since 2005′s Human After All, the iconic EDM masterminds tread perilously close to creating an album’s worth of nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Comprised of childhood friends Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, the French duo have meticulously crafted (and I mean meticulously) 13 tracks of luxuriously reimagined disco, soft rock, prog, retro-house and synth-pop, featuring the actual, bona fide legendary songwriters, producers and session players that made those types of music famous in the first place (Giorgio Moroder, Todd Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, Paul Jackson Jr….uh…Pharrell, etc.)
What distinguishes RAM from a six-disc ’70s/’80s club compendium advertised on Palladia and Fuse at 3:00 a.m. on a Tuesday not only has to do with Bangalter and De Homem-Christo’s complete and utter devotion to the classic styles, and makers, of the dance music they are undoubtedly obsessed with, but it also has to do with their ability to curate every aspect of the album experience — the announcement ads, the teaser spot premieres at Coachella and SNL, The Collaborators video series, the actual sequencing and track progression of the album, the songs themselves — in the manner of a spectacle that was mysterious and alluring. This was all a huge risk, but it’s ultimately rewarding.More »
Check out photos from the duo's New York City set. Read More »
MS MR singer Lizzy Plapinger is exactly what you want in a frontman/woman. She has pink hair, or sometimes blue. She has an unconventional voice, husky and noir-ish. Most importantly, she has a keen ear for pop: as co-founder of Neon Gold Records, she released early singles from acts like Passion Pit, Ellie Goulding and Icona Pop. But that cool factor looms large over her project with Max Hershenow, giving skeptics a ready-made argument: that MS MR’s success is built on blind faith from a Neon Gold-loving Web.
The most effective way to dispense with any potential buzz-economy bullshit, though, is to put together a debut album as strong as Secondhand Rapture (out today, ). With this full-length, MS MR have crafted a collection of glossy dirges and high-drama doom-dances that operate in the pop world, but aren’t entirely of that world. Rather than neon synths and guitar crunch buttressing the melodies, it’s strings and pianos — but not in the Lana Del Way. Instead, MS MR opt for beauty through weirdness, constructing a record full of spectral echoes, wobbling organs and orchestral maneuvers in the dark. More »
The Disney princesses face off in this Ibrawlator. Read More »
Demi Lovato called her last album Unbroken. Even if the title track was a love song, that name still felt like a reference to the comeback Lovato forged following a widely publicized breakdown that transformed her — from a Disney princess to a troubled teenager to a young woman whose public platform was all about recovery, both personally and professionally.
Two years later, she’s releasing a new LP, but this one is simply titled Demi, and that makes perfect sense in a funny sort of way. There’s no need for a canny titular shoutout to some thematic cohesion: After notching the biggest single of her career with last year’s “Give Your Heart a Break” and a banner season showing her mettle as a judge on The X Factor, where she routinely upstaged Britney Spears as the most empathetic and engaged member of the panel, Lovato doesn’t have anything to prove anymore. She’s just herself. More »
About 16 years have passed since 98 Degrees released their self-titled debut album, and 15 years since their follow-up 98° and Rising became a multi-platinum juggernaut. A lot has happened since then. Mainly, the concept of a boy band has actually evolved into just that: a boy band. When Nick, Justin, Jeff, and Drew first hit the scene, they were all in their twenties (Drew was probably the closest to genuine youthfulness at 21). It wasn’t unheard of, considering various members of Backstreet Boys were flirting with 30 by their second album. Since then, boy bands have gotten younger (One Direction‘s oldest member is 21 and they’re almost three albums deep), yet the content grows more risqué. Capitalizing on one of those two traits, 98 Degrees release 2.0 (out today,
The media narrative on Victoria “Little Boots” Hesketh’s sophomore album, the one in which an artist gets pushed down by the heavy hand of the modern music industry…that story ends here. Because it doesn’t matter. In a year, no one will remember the delays or the lengths to which Hesketh went to make sure she realized her own vision. What they will remember is simple: Nocturnes (out today, ) is a solid work of cinematic, nighttime disco. More »
It’s been about a year since we saw Jessica Sanchez light up the stage (and subsequently get robbed) on season 11 of American Idol. After a full slate of post-season tour dates, performances at the NBA Finals and the DNC and a Glee guest spot, Sanchez has finally finished up her debut album, Me, You & the Music. Out today (), the 11-track effort not only highlights her undeniable vocal talent, but also showcases how much she has grown musically since her stint on Idol. More »
The Grammy hosts perform "Mean" -- beatbox-style. Read More »
LL Cool J rose to fame through a series of firsts. In his 1984 debut single “I Need a Beat,” the scrappy and still-teenaged MC laid his braggadocio down to a precise, hard-hitting backbeat — production that the LP’s label described as “Reduced by Rick Rubin.” LL’s debut Radio became one of hip hop’s first commercially successful albums. “I Need Love” was the first rap song to be a #1 R&B hit. LL paved the way for Eminem and Drake by becoming one of the first rappers to achieve pop stardom. Yes, he was also accused of selling out.
But the more the mainstream paid attention to rap, the bigger the genre grew. So, for most of his 13-album deal with Def Jam, LL Cool J chased after rap’s most notable sounds and names, from West Coast-style rap reporting (14 Shots To The Dome) to Timbaland (The DEFinition). For 14th album Authentic (out today, April 30), LL has enlisted funk forefathers (Bootsy Collins), ’90s R&B stars (Seal) and Snoop Dogg, upon his own Reincarnation. Based on the tracklist, Authentic appears to be another first — that is, his first decisively retro affair. More »
Seriously, you guys, Michael Buble is pretty good. Who knows how, or if he’ll be remembered generations from now — even the most remarkable musicians are forgotten — but at this time and place he’s the world’s most successful male jazz vocalist, and with good reason.
On the crooning Canuck’s eighth studio album, To Be Loved (out today, ) his performance is ever strong and mature. Now 37, he’s aging well and lays into the opening track — Mack Gordon and Josef Myrow‘s “You Make Me Feel So Young,” popularized by Frank Sinatra almost six decades ago — with some obvious maturity in his delivery. It’s a traditional big band arrangement that sets a classic tone for the album to follow. And, I mean, really, he sounds great. He doesn’t have that same masculine oomph as Sinatra, but that standard’s too steep to hold him to. Simply, that Buble’s smooth baritone would make me sit back, loosen my tie, tap my foot and snap my fingers a few times, in the moment, it feels like I’ll owe him for that forever. More »
Watch the trailer for the Reincarnated doc. Read More »
When the rapper formerly known as Snoop Dogg announced in a July 2012 press conference that, after an extended stay in Jamaica earlier that year, he had embraced the island’s religious philosophy of Rastafarianism, changed his name to the more Rasta-friendly Snoop Lion (“dog” is considered derogatory in Jamaican culture), recorded a new Major Lazer-produced album of reggae songs and filmed a documentary about the experience, the whole endeavor smacked of a gimmicky mid-life crisis. Nearly a year later, it seems Snoop is completely sincere about the transformation…but it’s hard not to pick apart the presentation. When you’re commissioning a film documenting a supposedly profound transitional moment in your life, it’s easy for the exercise to seem like a very bored and very stoned millionaire’s very expensive new hobby. Snoop basically admitted as much in the July presser: “Rap is not a challenge to me. I’ve won every accolade you can get in rap, they call me ‘Uncle Snoop’ in rap. When you’re an uncle, it’s time to find something new.”
Granted, that motivation for reinvention is much less cynical than if Snoop tried to tailor himself to become more sonically suited for 2013, like if he had made an entire dubstep album under his DJ Snoopadelic banner. Adopting the trappings of reggae legends Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley (whom Snoop believes he is “reincarnated” from) is many things, but a shrewd decision to sell more records it is not. So, discounting the hype and speculation surrounding Reincarnated (out today, ), as well as the poorly reviewed documentary, we’re left with an album that, barring a few glaring missteps, ends up being a competent, fun, somewhat mindless marriage of American pop music and contemporary reggae. More »
Outside of the Caribbean’s occasional blip on mainstream music culture’s radar (Shaggy, Kevin Lyttle, Sean Paul, early Rihanna), and the unimpeachable Dynamite! series from Soul Jazz Records, chances are the first time most people stateside were really exposed to the vibrant, infectious sounds of contemporary reggaeton and dancehall was on Major Lazer’s 2009 debut Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do... A project founded by Philadelphia-based producer/DJ, and Mad Decent impresario Diplo (Wesley Pentz) along with UK native DJ Switch (Dave Taylor), Major Lazer’s first album proved to be a flawlessly curated tour through the sweaty clubs of dancehall/reggaeton epicenters like Kingston and Port-au-Prince, providing wider exposure for seminal scene figures like Mr. Lex, Ricky Blaze, Nina Sky and Future Trouble in the process.
But Guns Don’t Kill People… wasn’t just a document of a sound or mixtape; Diplo and Switch injected their survey of island dance culture with outside influences, like when they took Holland’s syncopated house music known as “bubbling,”and grafted it onto the twerking reggae-bump of “Pon De Floor” (which later became the basis for Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)”). The result was an impressively volatile melting pot of dynamic, globalized dance music. More »