/ could this be beyond my wildest dreams?”) adds another level of potency. A willingness to adapt to the times, straying from the established formula of bombastic orchestral pop, has produced both hits (Wings’s art-rock-inflected “Live and Let Die”) and misses (the adult contemporary schlock of Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High”). Veirs looks to paintings and sculptures for guidance and solace at key points on My Echo. Easton gives her all like she’s trying to steal Pat Benatar’s career, and the hook is catchy, even when the bland come-hither lyrics sound like they’re more appropriate for a Palm Springs timeshare brochure than a major feature film about a guy who kills people for a living. She spoils this reveal, though, on the album’s opening track, “Freedom Feeling,” when she discovers that the liberation she sought in love was within herself all along. What once seemed refreshing in its minimalism is quickly starting to feel insubstantial. In which the Pumpkins conclusively prove that great art comes from great pain. There’s perhaps no better testament to the power of Janet’s breakthrough album, Control, as a quintessential statement on personal and artistic self-actualization than the still pervasive misconception that it’s her debut, with 1982’s Janet Jackson and 1984’s Dream Street relegated to the singer’s “prehistory.” But while it should surprise absolutely no one that the quartet of albums that Janet released during her imperial phase handily top this list, her most recent effort, 2015’s Unbreakable, was an understated return to form, reuniting the artist with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. On “Burn Too Bright,” she asks, “Who were you running from?” and quickly answers, as expected, “yourself.” Veirs gives us little work to do to exhume meaning from her images; she’s experienced the struggle of sorting out her feelings, so she aims to spare us of that emotional labor. We’re greeted with such eyebrow raisers as “I just killed the pussy/Need a casket” and an exhaustive checklist of the nationalities of women he’s bedded. The album’s opening lines—“I don’t know where I am going/But I got you by my side”—are bittersweet, tinged by Veirs’s sly sense of dramatic irony. At least, that is, for the duration of side one, where singer-songwriters René & Angela (best known for their steamy funk workout “I’ll Be Good”) serve Janet with three equally perky-cute dance-pop ditties, and one halfway decent ballad. Griffin is still a formidable center of gravity for a small army of eager collaborators, but the final product wants for some necessary fine-tuning. While many breakup albums explore the distance between the euphoria of love and the devastation of it ending, My Echo mostly sits somewhere in the middle. For all its contradictory pleasures, though, Featuring Ty Dolla $ign is absent of the sharp hooks and coherent vision of Griffin’s past albums, which, though they have a similar basic structure, are more thematically tied to locations (Southern California and a faraway island vacation spot). The singer’s eighth album, Damita Jo, features a slew of the gooey, structureless sex ballads that had become her staple, including “Warmth,” three-and-a-half minutes dedicated to describing how Ms. Jackson If You’re Nasty gives a blowjob (and yes, she’s a method actress, whispering sweet nothings with her mouth full). Too many of the songs on Positions, however, rely on the same midtempo trap-pop that populated Grande’s previous two efforts, particularly Thank U, Next. Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), The Style Council’s Mick Talbot: “It was a very liberating thing” – Interview. Barnburning new recordings of a trio of songs that Springsteen wrote in the early 1970s, before the formation of the E Street Band in 1972, provide Letter to You’s most fascinating links to the past. These moments of indulgence are helpful in diversifying Serpentine Prison’s tracklisting, which often falls into a monochromatic haze of slow, easily digestible sounds. I don’t know what co-producer and Janet’s then-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri thought he meant when he said he wanted 20 Y.O. The sweeping opening track of 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. “Shut Up” finds Grande venturing into chamber pop, her cascading vocal lines propped up by plucky strings and orchestral flourishes, but the song sputters out soon after it reaches its swirling, cinematic climax. Songs like the Smashing Pumpkins-esque “Sorry” convey her fragility, buttressed by symphonic string arrangements and pounding drums. While Veirs’s lyrics are consistently unsettled and sometimes apocalyptic, they largely sidestep concrete problems in her marriage beyond rare whisperings of infidelity and alienation. This isn’t a particularly orchestral album, but the way that judicially placed drums and softly struck keys ring against Berninger’s deep vocals makes it sound like the songs are reverberating throughout a theater full of rapt listeners. Veirs makes elegant use of her detachment on “I Sing to the Tall Man,” opening the song by reducing her husband to objective descriptors—“the tall man in the red kitchen”—before admitting that his “dark eyes and scarred chin remind [her] we are living.” She lets us in, pointing to the weight of her love and, as on “Memaloose Island,” the love’s interconnectedness with her faith in life itself. Much of ‘Featuring Ty Dolla $ign’ boasts near-perfect sequencing, the early numbers – such as the the moody, Post Malone-assisted ‘Spicy’ and ‘Track 6’, a lithe track featuring Kanye West, Anderson .Paak and Thundercat – bleeding into one another with a calculated level of precision. The album is an enjoyable, if predictable, outing from an effortlessly reliable songwriter. Over the course of two decades, the Mountain Goats have maintained a near-peerless level of quality even as they’ve evolved their distinct folk-rock sound in unexpected directions. Later, the main man interpolates Mary J. Blige‘s 1993 rendition of funk classic ‘Sweet Thing’ for the smooth ‘Nothing Like Your Exes’; it’s satisfying to see him pay tasteful and consistent tribute to R&B’s past.

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