Tegan and Sara - "Heartthrob," ****
From indie darlings to pop stars, this duo has made the full R.E.M. progression since they formed in 1995. And like the Athens legends, pop seems to have evolved naturally from the Canadian twins' sound. There's no question about it, "Heartthrob" is a shot for superstardom. It's '80s pop bliss molded into a contemporary pop sound that will fit right alongside Ke$ha and Katy Perry on the radio. But it's done on their terms. And who can blame them? Who doesn't want to make their Prince record? Pop is no longer a dirty word and actually, what's happening in pop right now is much more interesting than anything going on in the indie or rock world. If you don't believe me, just listen to this album and you'll catch some Talking Heads, some David Bowie, even some Tal Bachman (Don't worry, it works), seamlessly embedded in these engrossing, addictive breakup tunes.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Closer."
Lee Fields and the Expressions - "Faithful Man," *****
"I don't see myself ever quitting unless the audience stops coming ... As long as they feel me, then I have something to offer." - Lee Fields in a Q&A with Ellis Jones of vice.com.
The music on "Faithful Man" is retro-soul music, but it's not tribute music or imitation, it's the real deal. Fields said, "I'm not trying to be pompous or egotistical, but what we do is from the heart. It's so real and it just comes so naturally to us." The singer can sing with the best of them and he has that essential, larger-than-life personality, along with an Al Green I-know-something-you-don't-know smile, which will make you smile too. And I'm betting you won't be able to do otherwise (provided that you like soul music in the first place) as you listen to him belt out "Faithful Man," "Still Hanging On" and "Wish You Were Here," some of the best soul songs I've heard in a long time. Every time I listen to this CD, I'm moved, energized and eager to get others to hear it as well.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Faithful Man."
The Best of Parliament - "Give Up the Funk," *****
I've heard several songs from these funk gods over the years, but I've never bought one of their records. It will probably be considered sacrilege that I went for a best-of instead of working my way through the group's CDs. But have you looked at the discographies for Parliament and Funkadelic? George Clinton and his alien rockers released a heck of a lot of music in the '70s. I figured that if this CD gives me more hunger for the funk, I'll keep exploring. But as of right now, I'm content with a short trip on the Mothership.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Flash Light."
Atoms for Peace - "Default," **
Being a huge fan of Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it's needless to say that I was thrilled when I heard that Flea and Thom Yorke would be collaborating for this side project. I?was hoping that Flea's funk would pull Yorke out of the murky depths of "King of Limbs," Radiohead's last, less-than-impressive effort, which featured the legendary band's most boring music to date. But no such luck. This single from the band's debut album is more of the same. Maybe it will grow on me. But as right now, zzzzzzzzzz.