New Recordings: Johnny Cash, Future Islands, Shakira
Ratings: **** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Poor
For Johnny Cash, as for his pal Bob Dylan, the 1980s are widely viewed as a lost decade. But that view is not entirely accurate -and now comes a "lost" Cash album from 1984 to help prove the point.
Out Among the Stars, which includes new accompaniment from Marty Stuart (who played on the original) and Buddy Miller, among others, is not peak Cash, but it shows the Man in Black was still capable of powerful, stirring work before the monumental American Recordings that climaxed his career.
There are two fine duets with his wife, June: the spirited "Baby Let's Ride" and the tender "Don't You Think It's Come Our Time." There's also a rollicking "I'm Movin' On" with Waylon Jennings. Cash also contributes two top-flight originals, the tearjerker "Call Your Mother" and the spiritual "I Came to Believe." On the debit side: "If I Told You Who It Was" is a silly novelty, "Tennessee" includes a hokey children's chorus, and "Rock and Roll Shoes" rips off the title line of the great Chuck Willis R&B chestnut "Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes" for a country song that pales in comparison.
- Nick Cristiano
(4 AD ***1/2)
Baltimore synth-pop trio Future Islands' appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman earlier this month was a textbook case of old media (TV) working with new media (viral memes of super-intense singer Samuel T. Herring's hip-swiveling dance moves) to create overnight buzz for a previously obscure indie band. Couple that with a series of riveting performances at the SXSW festival, and - voilà! - Future Islands' fourth album, Singles, is suddenly so hot you wonder why the band's Philadelphia show on April 29 is at a venue as intimate as the First Unitarian Church.
Singles proves worthy of the attention. Herring's bandmates, Gerritt Welmers and William Cashion, lay down a New Order-style bed of streamlined electro-pop. That creates a cool foundation for Herring's heated expressions of pain, love, and loss. The album is called Singles, but from the lead cut, "Seasons (Waiting On You)," to the soul-searching closer, "A Dream of You and Me," it charts an earnest, darkly romantic course that holds together as a unified piece of work.
- Dan DeLuca
(RCA/Sony Latin Iberia ***)
Few superstar singers have been more wriggly than Shakira, quite literally, when you consider her signatures: the bare-midriff belly-shake, the trembling knee-knock, the hiccupping vocals. Same for her music. Since the start of her career, the Colombian powerhouse and current judge on The Voice has made albums that blend booming power-balladry and Latin-continuum dance-electro with an eclectic mix of noise, complex chords, and stories of obsession.
Perhaps Shakira's new album is self-titled for a reason. Mostly (not completely), it disposes with the lyrical and musical twists and follows a more linear muse for maximum access (or success). Sure, "Loco Por Ti" translates to "I'm Crazy for You," but she doesn't sound bonkers doing it. The duets - the sexy reggae-punk of "Can't Remember to Forget You," with Rihanna; the catchy, country-tinged "Medicine," with Voice costar Blake Shelton - are straightforward and carefully arranged. "Empire" and "23" start with humble pop and cascade into firework-ed anthems. Shakira is less conceptual than previous albums, with more top-tier (read: homogeneous) producers, giving it an occasional facelessness. Still, it's such a pretty face.
- A.D. Amorosi
Top Albums in the Region
This Week Last Week
Locally Nationally Locally
1 1 Various Artists Frozen 1
2 3 Foster the People Supermodel -
3 6 Pharrell Williams G I R L 4
4 4 Skrillex Recess -
5 7 Rick Ross Mastermind 3
6 5 The Pretty Reckless Going to Hell -
7 2 YG My Krazy Life -
8 10 Taking BackSunday Happiness Is -
9 26 War on Drugs Lost in the Dream -
10 12 Beyonce Beyonce 8
SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 4/5/14 © 2014
On Sale Tuesday
Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line;
Christina Perri, Head or Heart;
Thievery Corporation, Saudade;
Mobb Deep, The Infamous Mobb Deep