THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Choosing the tracks for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack must have been a mini-Hunger Games in itself after the wild success of the first film. The victors offer a mix of indie and mainstream, adding a rounded, energetic, and emotional dimension to the film.
The 12 tributes (15 on the deluxe edition) of album No. 2 battle it out to discover who puts out the edgiest, yet accessible, song in homage to the story. One can see a shift in tone from the first film’s T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack from folky melancholy to a slicker, more eccentric offering supervised by Alexandra Patsavas.
A few traces from the original DNA remain with such tracks as the folky “Lean” by The National, “Devil May Cry” by The Weeknd, and the dulcet tones of “Gale Song” by The Lumineers. The lead single “Atlas,” from British rockers Coldplay, brings a low simmer resignation to boil over into anger. It’s a resounding anthem to fighting against oppression and feeling the weight of the world on one’s shoulders in dulcet piano tones. Christina Aguilera adds to the film’s mainstream cred with her powerful vocals on the catchy “We Remain.”
But the indie performers modulate their voices in a different direction — instead of reassuring, revolutionary tones they all go eerie synth. Teen sensation Lorde does an underwater-sounding cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that takes its original cheerful spirit and twists it into a macabre warning. Australian Sia convincingly taps into the best of tribal pop on “Elastic Heart,” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo, while Ellie Goulding goes all angelic sci-fi electro in “Mirror.”
There’s no clear victor on this record, apart from the fan.
— CRISTINA JALERU,
DYAD PLAYS PUCCINI
Lou Caimano and Eric Olsen. (Self-produced)
This album's a fine example of what can happen when an educated listener picks up on the nuances of someone else's style.
Operatic soprano Pamela Olsen told her husband, pianist Eric Olsen, there was something about alto saxophonist Lou Caimano's tone and musical vision that reminded her of Puccini operas. Thus came the concept for "Dyad Plays Puccini," a reinterpretation of 10 beautiful, graceful Puccini classical arias as contemporary jazz.
The result is an album that arguably isn't pure jazz, classical or opera - or, on the other hand, is all of those things and more. But who cares? It's good stuff, a great all-instrumental duet that seamlessly transitions between the genres and offers something fresh, unique, and vivid. And you learn there's more jazz in Puccini than you might think.
— TOM HENRY
When they write the obituary for hard rock — OK, the next obituary for hard rock — certainly it will reference “Baptized,” the album on which Daughtry went soft.
Of course, you could argue Chris Daughtry, who used American Idol as a rocket launcher to stardom with the band that bears his surname, was never very hard to begin with. But the fervid response to him on the show demonstrated the continued potency of his brand of generalized post-grunge angst, delivered at maximum volume, but with an undercurrent of real feeling. He was a mook you could hug.
On “Baptized,” Daughtry’s fourth album, he’s just a hugger, though. The music has been scaled down and made anonymous, owing more to the dull ambience of OneRepublic than to the guitar grinders and drum pummelers that Daughtry has shown affinity for in the past.
But even though Daughtry’s music has softened, there’s not much Daughtry can do with his voice, which has an appealing, powerful growl with no sultriness to it. It wants badly to roar but is given almost no opportunity to here apart from the savage “Traitor.”
And so mostly, Daughtry is a caged animal on this album — “Waiting for Superman” is effective but tepid; “Wild Heart” tries to be flirty but can’t quite manage. “Long Live Rock & Roll” is Daughtry’s subtle inserting himself into rock’s proud lineage, with its mentions of Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses. “Summer of ‘96 I got my first guitar/And played it ‘til my fingers said ‘you’re gonna be a star’/Grunge was everything, at least it was to me,” he sings.
But that song undermines itself a bit with flickers of country in the arrangement. They’re there, too, on the title track, which also employs the canny double entendres of Christian rock. Country isn’t a home for a singer like Daughtry, but Christian rock might be a soft landing place for him, a genre that is perhaps the last respite for a man who wants to sing with his full voice and not be ostracized for it.
— JON CARAMANICA,
New York Times