“Native” (Mosley Music Group/Interscope Records)
OneRepublic continues to show that the group’s musical rapport is as strong as ever on their third album, “Native.”
Frontman Ryan Tedder’s falsetto is superb throughout the new offering, which bleeds with emotion and substance. He and his four bandmates are completely in sync.
Tedder, who has written and produced singles for music’s biggest acts, from Adele to Beyonce, shines with star appeal alongside a variety of instruments that are smoothly intertwined, ranging from the acoustic guitar to drums. The 12-track album is filled with refreshing and catchy songs: That’s certainly evident when the album kicks off with the well-crafted opening track, “Counting Stars,” and first single, “If I Lose Myself,” co-produced by hit-maker Benny Blanco.
“Preacher” has Tedder reflecting on the days of his childhood, recalling how his life was infused with wisdom by his grandfather, who was a pastor. Tedder’s voice also touches the soul on midtempo tracks like “Burning Bridges,” the Jeff Bhasker-assisted “Can’t Stop” and “Don’t Look Down.”
— Jonathan Landrum Jr., Associated Press
“An Appointment With Mr. Yeats” (Proper American)
This album sounds much better than the concept. The Waterboys’ Mike Scott has written 14 songs using the poetry of W.B. Yeats, and the collaboration shouldn’t work — not with such lyrics as “Man-stealer Niamh leant and sighed by Oisin on the grass.”
But Scott pulls it off. His rootsy, melodic Gaelic pop, with nods to Coldplay, Sting and Mark Knopfler, magnifies the beauty of Yeats’ words and makes them new again.
Scott, the son of a university lecturer in English literature, has been working on these songs for a couple of decades. His devotion to the project shows with an impressive variety of musical approaches.
“Mad as the Mist and Snow” becomes an arena-ready bluesy jig, while “The Faery’s Last Song” serves as a lilting benediction. And then there’s “News for the Delphic Oracle,” which ends with nymphs and satyrs in the throes of passion in the foamy sea. Very rock ‘n’ roll.
— Steven Wine, Associated Press
“Girl Who Got Away” (RCA Records)
Some artists are compelled to stay with a style they’re comfortable with. Others? They’re not shy about ranging into new territory now and then.
Dido? She’s exploring new frontiers, soaking up the sights and sounds, coalescing her experiences, desires and treks into songs on “Girl Who Got Away” that jump from tart electronica-inspired landscapes to earnest, almost low-key folk-oriented confessions that can be likened to an afternoon coffee klatch for two.
“No one could have told me how much I’d miss you, and how soon the world moves on,” she sings in “Loveless Hearts,” her voice an emotional sheen atop a gently rising crescendo of crisp keyboard tones climbing swiftly in time.
Such is the ranging, diverse offerings from “Girl Who Got Away,” Dido’s fourth album and first since 2008’s “Safe Trip Home.” It features styles that encompass lush orchestral layouts, darkly hypnotic dance grooves and the clarity of life and all its foibles. It’s an intensely personal album, reflecting Dido’s creative spark while retaining an accessibility that remains fresh, if not vital.
— Matt Moore, Associated Press
“She” (RainWater Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
Six years is a long time to build up anticipation.
That’s how long it’s been since Alice Smith released her sultry, soulful 2007 debut, “For Lovers, Dreamers & Me.” With that album, the singer-songwriter was tagged with that coveted “next big thing” title. And then … silence.
She went through the label maze, had a child, performed here and there, but “She” is her first collection of music since that promising first album.
With her sophomore album, Smith shows the promise is still there. Vocally, Smith is still a powerhouse who vacillates between smoldering and soaring; lyrically, she can still craft ear-catching couplets, like on “The One.” Still, the magic that made “For Lovers” so strong, and enduring, is largely missing from “She.”
Technically, she gets points, but few songs on the album stir the soul quite like its predecessor: Much of the spark of that album was due to an irreverent sass that’s missing here. Maybe she just grew up, but “She” sounds a bit staid at times. The most vital performance on the album is her cover of “Fool for You” by CeeLo Green — who could teach her a thing or two about vibrance.
— Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Entertainment Writer
TOMASZ STANKO NEW YORK QUARTET
Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, “Wislawa” (ECM)
Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has long been one of Europe’s leading jazz improvisers, known for his original ballads influenced by Miles Davis’ 1960s acoustic quintet but with a touch of brooding Slavic melancholy. The 70-year-old trumpeter has recently been spending time in New York playing with a top-flight rhythm section — Cuban-born pianist David Virelles, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver — who add a vibrant new dimension both as soloists and ensemble players to his music.
This double album was inspired by the poetry of the late Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska with whom he performed at a 2009 recital in Krakow. Most of the original compositions reflect Stanko’s penchant for slowly unfolding, meditative ballads such as the dirge-like opening and closing title track, with Cleaver contributing delicate brushwork, and “Metafizyka” on which Stanko and Morgan play pathos-filled solos.
But it’s the driving up-tempo tunes, “Assassins” and “Faces,” where the New York rhythm section really makes its presence felt, pushing Stanko to be more daring as he plays smoldering trumpet lines in a style that is post-bop bordering on free.
— Charles J. Gans, Associated Press