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WORLD PEACE IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS
Rue the day when Morrissey runs out of gripes. Throughout his 37-year career, he's transformed torment and disdain into a memorable body of work with both the Smiths and as a solo artist.
The 55-year old crooner has always approached romance and anything else that gets in his craw with stark reality. This time, on his 10th album World Peace is None of Your Business, he's decided to exorcise more of his political demons.
The title track goes after irresponsible world leaders and the actual people that vote them into power. He takes on bullfighting, human cruelty, and bad relationships. And it's more than the clever lyrics that make this collection work. It's also the musicality. The serious themes are nicely contrasted with an ironically up-tempo flavor. There's bounciness to these tunes, including some perfectly placed flourishes from flamenco guitar.
As for the rest of the album, Morrissey attacks the modern idea of masculinity while showing his most vulnerable qualities on I'm Not a Man and goes slightly romantic on Kiss Me a Lot. And Kick the Bride Down the Aisle sounds like something left off the Kill Bil" soundtrack, right down to the theme.
Morrissey clearly shows he has not shed any of his trademark wit or dissension, and while not the best album he's ever recorded — it's a pretty strong collection.
— JOHN CARUCCI,
1000 FORMS OF FEAR
Since Sia's last album, 2010's top-notch We Are Born, the performer has written songs for Beyonce, Rihanna, and Katy Perry, co-starred on hits with David Guetta and Flo Rida, and achieved her first solo U.S. success with the Top 20 hit Chandelier.
America's finally caught on to the ultra-talented Sia, and the Australian singer-songwriter stretches her boundaries even further on her sixth release, 1000 Forms of Fear.
Sia's album contains some of the eerie but addictive material she's known for. Big Girls Cry builds from a soft verse to a memorable chorus, and she repeats that song's refrain on the downtempo ballad, Straight for the Knife, another highlight. Eye of the Needle is just one more example of her musical prowess.
Sia is heartbroken on the album, and she has mastered how to tell her story on the 14-track set. But the singer isn't also down: The anthemic Chandelier is one of the year's best pop songs, where Sia's scratchy and loud voice shines. The dance jam sounds like a tune Sia could have given to Rihanna or another contemporary pop act — but thankfully she didn't.
Other songs on 1000 Forms of Fear are similar to the material Sia has crafted for others, from Christina Aguilera to Kylie Minogue to Britney Spears. But luckily the singer saves the best songs for herself.
— MESFIN FEKADU,
REDEEMER OF SOULS
Judas Priest (Epic)
It takes a lot for a band to make up for a "farewell tour" that ended up not being a farewell after all. But on its new studio album, Judas Priest has redeemed itself nicely.
Simply put, Redeemer of Souls is the best album this band has done in over 20 years. Powerful, fierce, captivating and clever, this could be the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year.
It opens with a roar with Dragonaut and the melodic but still rocking title track.
But things really get interesting on Halls of Valhalla. Priest's one concession to age is that Rob Halford's air-raid siren vocals have given way to mid-register singing. The wails of Painkiller or The Sentinel are few and far between here, but they do surface in a glorious way on Valhalla.
And March of the Damned has the same bottom-heavy groove as Metal Gods; it even has similar sound effects of heavy items bashing against each other and scraping on the floor.
So, if you thought Judas Priest was done — like the band briefly said it was — you've got another thing coming. And that's just fine.
— WAYNE PARRY,