Friday, December 12, 2014

Life, Life, Love

New Recordings: Dolly Parton, 50 Cent, and The Antlers

50 Cent: "Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win" (From the album cover)
50 Cent: "Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win" (From the album cover)
50 Cent: "Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win" (From the album cover) Gallery: New Recordings: Dolly Parton, 50 Cent, and The Antlers

Ratings: ****, Excellent; *** Good; ** Fair, * Poor

Dolly Parton

Blue Smoke

(Dolly ***)

"I had a lot of ambitious dreams / Seen a lot of those dreams come true," Dolly Parton sings on "Home." Did she ever. And for this superstar, home seems to be a place not just to "restore my weary soul" but also to rediscover her artistic inspiration.

Beginning with the chugging quasi-bluegrass of the title song, Parton again finds gold doing what she has of late: favoring the rootsy, organic sounds of her rural Tennessee upbringing over the pop gloss of her crossover years. It's an approach that enhances her irrepressible charm and her still considerable songwriting powers.

Parton's gospelized take on Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me" is a bit heavy-handed (as opposed to her spare, devastating version of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice"). When she does drift toward pop, though, she does it mostly with taste and restraint. Her duets with Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson are elegant, emotionally stirring ballads that feature strings but absolutely no syrup.

- Nick Cristiano


50 Cent


Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win
(G-Unit/Caroline **1/2)

Oh, how the Fiddy hath fallen. Eleven years after Get Rich or Die Tryin' (and its audacious follow-up, The Massacre), much of what made 50 Cent provocative and new is gone. In those recordings, his swaggering voice - a low, rumbling mumble, as sexy as it was threatening - was matched by spare, sure arrangements. His voice, and that sound, are still central in Animal Ambition. The broke-beat "Irregular Heartbeat," the creepy, Euro-discoid "Smoke," the hypnotic and minimalist "Hold On" - these tracks show off his looming presence and patented brand of diabolical hip-pop.

There is, alas, bad news, most of it lyrical. 50 Cent has dropped most of the gangsta rap content - as he had to do if he were to move forward. The problem is, he hasn't found a workable replacement and is fumbling for words to match his flow. When he does say something about bullying ("We by the schoolyard, waitin' for you to get your kid"), it's strained and psychopathic. His guests are second-rate (Jadakiss? Yo Gotti? What is this, Love & Hip Hop?). The music oozes toward tedium. So Animal's good, not great. Call it a mixtape-plus. It's definitely not Street King Immortal, the supposed 50 Cent masterpiece that still goes weirdly unreleased. Make it soon, Fiddy.

- A.D. Amorosi


The Antlers


(Anti- ***1/2)

The Antlers' breakthrough came with 2009's Hospice, a visceral, emotionally fraught song cycle about a doomed and tumultuous relationship. It was an intensely personal work for vocalist and guitarist Peter Silberman, and the first Antlers album to feature a full-time band. Hospice trafficked in tense, whisper-to-a-scream dynamics that at times recalled, in good ways, both Neutral Milk Hotel and Sigur Rós. Familiars is a different kind of good: It's slinkier, more soulful, more subtle.

The keyboards are lighter and the tempos slower than on Hospice or 2011's Burst Apart. Several songs use graceful trumpet lines to buoy Silberman's wide-ranging tenor. Familiars has themes if not a narrative: The pensive songs contemplate doppelgangers, changes in perspective, and misapprehensions. "We have to make our history less commanding," Silberman sings in "Surrender." He could be scolding the bitter protagonist of Hospice, although the Brooklyn trio has made an album that's no less commanding than that one.

- Steve Klinge

The Antlers, with Mr. Twin Sister, play 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. Tickets: $17. Information: 215-232-2100 or



Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally   

1   1    Miranda Lambert Platinum   -    

2   4    50 Cent    Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win  -

3   5    ColdPlay Ghost Stories   1    

4   2    Various Artists "Frozen" Soundtrack   4    

5   7    Various Artists     "The Fault in Our Stars" Soundtrack  13         

6   6    Various Artists    Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 50  6        

7   9    Michael Jackson Xscape   5    

8   8    Various Artists   Now That's What I Call Country, Vol. 7  -

9   16    Original Broadway Cast       If/Then: A New Musical    -    

10   10    The Black Keys Turn Blue    7    

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 6/21/14 © 2014


In Stores Tuesday

Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence;

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour;

Ed Sheeran, X;

Jennifer Lopez, A.K.A.

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