THE LION THE BEAST THE BEAT
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Hollywood)
When it was announced that Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were opening for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney's mega-country Brothers of the Sun tour, the only conclusion was that either the young Vermont band had taken a serious stylistic detour or something weird was going on.
Clearly something weird's going on.
The band's latest album is a long way from modern country (or even traditional country for that matter), with its roots deep in vintage '70s-era Elton John and Hall and Oates and heavily layered, sophisticated pop, soul and rock.
"The Lion the Beast the Beat" is a true full-length album with all of the songs in one way or another exploring the duality of human nature and focusing on a yearning for something more fulfilling than surface-y daily existence. The 10 songs are served as a package and peeling them apart removes some of the disc's muscle.
The title track is a thumping rocker and "Turntable" is a sexed-up metaphor-laden romp, but most of the album is comfortably middle of the road with the gorgeous summer sheen of "Parachute Heart" or plaintive searching of "Stars" and "Timekeeper."
Black Keys main man Dan Auerbach co-wrote several songs here, but his roots rock presence is effectively muted in the rich, lush arrangements that take advantage of Potter's folk-soul singer strengths and the Nocturnals' natural ability to adeptly handle a variety of musical palettes.
"The Lion the Beast the Beat" is an ambitious album that never exceeds its considerable reach. And for the life of me I can't imagine hearing these songs at a Tim McGraw/Kenny Chesney concert.
-- ROD LOCKWOOD
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Soundtrack)
Thomas Newman (Sony Music)
One of Hollywood's best-known composers captures the essence of modern India through music that is neither particularly hip nor old-fashioned. Perhaps most importantly, Thomas Newman's all-instrumental score also avoids cliches as it wavers between sounds light and breezy and those that are more rich, deep and culturally complex.
Newman, the cousin of soundtrack icon Randy Newman, composed and conducted this soundtrack for a coming-of-age film about seven elegant retirees from the United Kingdom caught up in a comic, romantic and poignant adventure at an India resort.
It's a good disc, though unlikely to be a landmark for Newman, a 10-time Academy Award nominee and five-time Grammy winner whose resume includes soundtracks for Finding Nemo, The Shawshank Redemption, Reckless, American Beauty, Wall-E, The Horse Whisperer, Erin Brockovich, and, more recently, The Help and The Iron Lady.
-- TOM HENRY
Justin Bieber (Island/Def Jam)
Because Justin Bieber is Justin Bieber -- a teen-singer heartthrob -- it's hard to take his music seriously. Everything about him screams Tiger Beat, from the endless screeching girls to his relationship with fellow teen sensation Selena Gomez to that hair (let's not forget about the promotional products, from his perfume lines and those Proactive commercials).
And then there's the song that has defined him most -- "Baby," perhaps the most saccharine, bubble-gum song recorded in quite some time.
With all that weighing him down, it's not surprising that few have taken Bieber -- the artist -- seriously. But his new CD will help change that.
"Believe," his third full-length album, is a 13-track set that shows that Bieber, now 18, is growing as a musician, and the result is enjoyable.
The album's first single, "Boyfriend," is a great pop song that sounds like Justin Timberlake's falsetto mashed up with the Ying Yang Twins' "The Whisper Song." It's Bieber's biggest hit to date.
The rest of the album also has future hits: "All Around the World" (with Ludacris) is upbeat, as is the futuristic, Big Sean-assisted "As Long As You Love Me," which sounds like it could have been produced by Skrillex and David Guetta.
While Bieber channels Timberlake at times, he also has moments inspired by his idol, Michael Jackson. Bieber samples Jackson's "We Got a Good Thing Going" for the nicely done, R&B-tinged "Die In Your Arms," and there's also a bonus track "Maria," a song about Mariah Yeater, the woman who falsely claimed Bieber fathered her child. The song recalls "Billie Jean," and it's clever and amusing.
-- MESFIN FEKADU, Associated Press