Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Life, Life, Love

New CDs: "Weird Al" Yankovic, Spoon, and Marsha Ambrosius

"Weird Al" Yankovic´s new album, ´Mandatory Fun.´ (From the album cover)
"Weird Al" Yankovic's new album, 'Mandatory Fun.' (From the album cover)
"Weird Al" Yankovic´s new album, ´Mandatory Fun.´ (From the album cover) Gallery: New CDs: "Weird Al" Yankovic, Spoon, and Marsha Ambrosius

"Weird Al" Yankovic

Mandatory Fun

(RCA **1/2)

An accordion-playing song parodist? Not a formula for career longevity. But here's "Weird Al" Yankovic, 35 years after his recording debut, bigger and brassier than ever. Weird Al hasn't changed his approach one bit with the chart-topping Mandatory Fun. He goes after pop's big fish (in this case, Lorde, Pharrell, Iggy Azalea). The backing tracks are cheesy but instantly recognizable, and the mock lyrics are clever and cohesive. The best parody here: "Word Crimes," a warped copy of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," but heavy on the grammar. The worst: "Inactive," which sounds more like Linkin Park than it does its intended target - Imagine Dragons ("Radioactive"). There are also a number of unremarkable originals on the album, a labored takeoff of Crosby Stills & Nash's "Carry On," and an accordion medley that covers everyone from Carly Rae to Pitbull. They're all fair game for Weird Al.

- David Hiltbrand

They Want My Soul
(Loma Vista ***1/2)

After establishing a standard of excellence with five albums since the turn of the millennium, the Austin, Texas, rock band Spoon took a break after 2010's slightly less than excellent Transference. Singer Britt Daniel paired off with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade to form the synthsational side project Divine Fits, while drummer/producer Jim Eno got busy knob-twiddling for bands such as Telekinesis and !!!.

The brief hiatus served the band well. Collaborating with a pair of producers - Joe Chiccarelli, who's worked with everyone from Tori Amos to Frank Zappa; and Dave Fridmann, who's closely associated with the Flaming Lips - Spoon do tweak their sound ever so slightly, playing around with electro-pop experimentalism on "Outlier," for instance.

But mostly, They Want My Soul is sharp, smart, and concise, exactly what you would hope - and expect - a Spoon album to be. That goes for the meaty hooks that get things going with appropriate swagger on "Rent I Pay," and the grabby melody and jagged guitar breaks on the title cut, in which Daniel rails against anyone who might steal his mojo. The special treat is "I Just Don't Understand," a 1961 Ann-Margret hit sung by principal Daniel influence John Lennon when the Beatles covered it on their BBC radio sessions. Here, it just sounds like another really good Spoon song.

- Dan DeLuca

Marsha Ambrosius
Friends & Lovers
(RCA ****)

On her second album, this Liverpool-to-Philly expatriate vocalist-composer known for co-penning Michael Jackson's "Butterflies" (among other hits) is in a romantic, emotional, erotic vein recalling R&B great Millie Jackson - without the raunch. If Jackson is a hot trumpet, Ambrosius is a subtle tenor sax that can blare at a moment's notice.

As she did on her soulful, gut-wrenching Late Nights & Early Mornings, Ambrosius paints a sumptuous scene for romance.

The aching chord changes and quiet-storming whoosh of "Cupid (Shot Me Straight Through My Heart)" and the Teena Marie-like "La La La La La" signal that Ambrosius is up for a good, ruminative chat about loss and love. On Friends & Lovers, when Ambrosius pitches woo with her husky voice and poetic but explicit lyrics, the slow jams reveal a singer as emphatic as she is vulnerable.

An eerie, sensual mash-up revolving around a Sade hit (retitled "Stronger"), a steamy duet with gruff Charlie Wilson, and several sexed-up interludes help make Ambrosius' sophomore effort a marvel of modern carnal soul.

- A.D. Amorosi

New Recordings

Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally   

1   1    5 Seconds of Summer    -    

      5 Seconds of summer

2   2    Various Artists "Frozen" Soundtrack   5    

3   3    "Weird Al" Yankovic Mandatory Fun   1    

4   5    Kidz Bop Kids Kidz Bop 26   4    

5   4    Sam Smith In the Lonely Hour   7    

6   6    Common Nobody's Smiling   -    

7   13    Trey Songz Trigga    6    

8   7    Crown the Empire    -    

      The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways

9   9    Jason Mraz Yes   2    

10   10    Ed Sheeran X   10    

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 8/9/14 © 2014


New Recordings

On Sale Tuesday

Spoon, They Want My Soul; Kix, Rock Your Face Off; Al Jarreau, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke: Gerald Albright, Slam Dunk; Billy Joe Shaver, Long in the Tooth

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