Friday, October 24, 2014


Sound Check

5/7/2014

Lily AllenLily Allen

“Sheezus”

Regal/Parlophone

This is a perfectly acceptable album. Really, that’s as close to the quick as you can cut. Nothing about “Sheezus” is particularly horrible — bland, maybe — but nothing here will re-invent your life, either. Lily Allen starts the album with the title track, which serves as her re-introduction to the music world after four years away. She name-checks Rihanna, Lorde, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, admits to being scared about getting back in the game and generally tries to play the role of old master at the age of 28. It’s one of the best tracks on the album and (along with “Insincerely Yours”) the best display of Allen’s true strength: her lyrics. For all the bubblegum pop and incessant swearing, Allen has always been a sly, whip-smart lyricist. And though “Sheezus” does exhibit signs of rust, there’s enough on the album to make you think that Allen’s got better stuff ahead of her. CV

 

DM Art Center

Natalie MerchantNatalie Merchant

“Natalie Merchant”

Nonesuch

This week, Natalie Merchant releases her first album of completely new material in 13 years. Normally, when you think of self-titled releases, you think of debut albums or early works. But Merchant is a 30-year vet with nothing left to prove, so to choose this moment to put her name front-and-center for the first time speaks volumes about what Merchant expects from this album. And, as a statement piece, Merchant’s latest effort has a lot to say. It is confident showcase of intimate, stripped-down tracks and sweeping, orchestral movements that harken back to Merchant’s 10,000 Maniacs days. Merchant’s voice is as strong and distinctive as ever, and her songwriting feels vital and relevant. The album isn’t a happy affair, filled with songs about darkness and regret, but Merchant’s evocative vocals carry the day and keep the album from getting bogged down in its own navel. CV

Upper Iowa