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Sound Check

Dec 8, 2011
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By Chad Taylor

Justin Bieber

‘Under the Mistletoe’


Sample Tracks

If you’re buying a Justin Bieber album, you either have pre-teen daughters or a shitload of cats. Either way, you know what you’re getting into, so there’s really no reason for me to take Biebs to task simply for being Biebs. For “Under the Mistletoe,” Bieber gets assists from everyone from Boyz II Men to Usher, with mixed results. The collaboration with Usher is… not the worst thing ever (hello, pull quote!), his duet with Mariah Carey on “All I Want for Christmas is You” is an inoffensive take on the best Christmas song of the last 20 years, and Bieber’s solo rendition of “Silent Night” is subdued and gentle, if not particularly memorable. But when Biebs fails, he fails spectacularly. Most egregiously, “Little Drummer Boy” (feat. Busta Rhymes) is an abomination. When Bieber’s star falls, or your daughters/cats are gone, there’s nothing here that will garner even a nostalgia play. CV

The Black Keys

‘El Camino’


Sample Tracks

If there was ever a group that seem perfect for scoring an entire Quentin Tarantino flick, it pretty much has to be The Black Keys, right? Over the past six albums, they have perfected a sound that is both completely unique and endlessly cool. “El Camino” is everything people love about the group — the fuzzy-amped blues sounds and catchy hooks apparent in closing track “Mind Eraser” — but is not an album that rests on the rather spacious laurels established by their last album, “Brothers.” The Keys have attained a stunning amount of commercial success but can’t convincingly be accused of selling out because they’ve not let success stop them from growing and exploring musically. Their sound has meandered through blues and R&B stalwarts like Junior Kimbrough and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and now, tracks like “Lonely Boy” clearly throw a wink in the direction of punkabilly bands like The Cramps. The exploration continues. CV

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