There's a built-in contradiction for bands that want to sound contemporary while working in the classic rock genre. As in, how do you update something that's somewhat hide-bound and potentially cliched?
Bands like Kings of Leon and Wolfmother have addressed the issue in various ways and mostly successfully.
The answer for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is to do it with a high degree of unsentimental panache that is neither self-conscious nor contrived. That it works makes this Vermont band's fourth release an intriguingly modern throwback.
Kicking off with a riff that's aimed directly below-the-belt with frank lyrics about sex from a distinctively female point of view on "Paris (Ooh La La)," the disc sounds firmly rooted in a more earthy time. "Medicine" and "Only Love" match the throwback vibe.
But there's also the pop-ska of "Goodbye Kiss" that sounds like No Doubt on steroids and the balladry of "Colors" that was influenced by Barack Obama's nomination, setting the release firmly in 2010.
It's difficult to see where Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fit into the current music scene, but the band has the looks and chops to cut its own path. There ought to be a home on radio for "Paris (Ooh La La)." Surely there would've been in 1978.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
If one measure of great music is its timeless quality, then Sergio Mendes has a secure place in history.
The Brazilian bossa nova-jazz-funk-samba master of more than 35 albums is back with two more, both of which modernize the airy, free-flowing sounds that brought him to international prominence with his Latin band, Brazil 66, more than 40 years ago.
"Bom Tempo," a Portugese phrase for "Good Time," has a more traditional sound that borrows from the songbooks of several great Brazilian composers, such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Gilberto Gil, while creating a florid, vividly bright and colorful musical tapestry. It's not perfect, but it's sure to lift people out of their doldrums and serve as a great fit for summer escapism, a sunny South American party in a bottle. Included is a fine new rendition of a Stevie Wonder pop song, "The Real Thing," originally written for Mendes in 1977.
"Bom Tempo Brasil Remixed" is perhaps a more risky and ambitious album, though not as intriguing. It overlays music that is already multifaceted with excessive, seemingly endless layers of electronica dance, hip-hop, soul, and funk, a redundant and heavy-handed effort.
It has obvious influence and involvement from British album producer and famed DJ Paul Oakenfold, plus others. Unless you're someone who endlessly twirls under the dance floor lights of an exclusive nightclub, you might find it too much of a head-spinner.
In her debut on Mercury, singer-songwriter Bundy offers something a little different as she aims to show two separate sides to her considerable talents. This unusual gimmick, a single release that is essentially two distinctly different albums, is a remarkable success.
Each segment of six songs concentrates on a single arena. The first features slow country ballads with emphasis on Bundy's sultry side. Her voice is suited perfectly to the music that emphasizes dreamy emotions with no-nonsense lyrics.
Next, six more numbers stoke the barroom flames in a tasty collection of uptempo kickers with fiery backbeats and sizzling melodies. Instrumental work is lively and always interesting.
Bundy shows a solid, sassy side on the second grouping, very unlike the first six. That, of course, is the album's intent, and she is certainly up to the task. She wrote or co-wrote 11 of the songs.
- KEN ROSENBAUM