the Hollaback girl is back

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Gwen Stefani

This Is What the Truth Feels Like


GWEN Stefani re­ally should have c alled her new al­bum ‘ Sil­ver Lin­ing’.

It was only a year ago that Stefani was strug­gling. Her 13- year mar­riage to roc ker Gavin Ross­dale had ended in a very pub­lic di­vorce and she was stuc k in the middle of writer’s bloc k – the main rea­son it’s been a dec - ade be­tween The Sweet Es­cape and her new solo al­bum This Is What The Truth Feels Like, as well as why she strug­gled through the rec ent No Doubt re­union.

But c on­sid­er­ing how well the al­bum turned out and her seem­ingly happy re­la­tion­ship with her fel­low coach on The Voice, Blake Shel­ton, it may have all been for the best.

This Is What The Truth Feels Like is a re­turn to form, bac k to the fear­less, bound­ary- push­ing pop days of her plat­inum- sell­ing Love. An­gel. Mu­sic. Baby. as a Hollaback Girl.

Stefani’s mix of trap beats and lush strings on the c ool Red Flag shows off her in­ven­tive­ness, while her col­lab­o­ra­tion with Fetty Wap on Ask­ing 4 It strikes at the heart of pop ra­dio. On Naughty, she mixes jazz, danc e pop and sul­try soul with sleek pro­duc tion help from J. R. Rotem.

Of course, the real foc us here is on Stefani’s raw rev­e­la­tions about her pri­vate life — both the good and bad. She cap­tures the af­ter­math of her di­vorce on the wrench­ing bal­lad Used To Love You, but re­gains her self- es­teem by the end. She gid­dily sings about her sur­prise re­la­tion­ship with Shel­ton on the sunny Make Me Like You, her un­der­stand­able ap­pre­hen­sion fad­ing as the joy­ous disc o jam heats up.

And while Me With­out You isn’t quite Don’t Speak, the kiss- off bal­lad does put things in the right per­spec­tive .“Now I’m me with­out you ,” she de­clares .“And things about to get real good.” Truth. – Glenn Gam­boa/News­day/ Tribune News Ser­vice

Par­son James

The Tem­ple EP


DE­SPITE its sanc­tu­ary-like ti­tle, there’ sam­ple sense of con­flict run­ning through the de­but ex­tended play from Amer­i­can singer- song­writer Par­son James.

The South Carolina na­tive’s fairly con­flicted up bring­ing could be held re­spon­si­ble for the dis­cor­dant un­der cur­rent. Af­ter all, here’s some­one whose sto­ried past stems from grow­ing up in a highly religious com­mu­nity as a bi racial gay man.

Those dis­parate iden­ti­ties are glo­ri­ous ly re­flected on the sex­u­al­ity an­them Sin­ner Like You. “It felt c old when they heard the news, guess I bet­ter give my Sun­day shoes,” the 21- year old con­cedes on the foot-thump­ing num­ber.

That out-of-the-closet sen­ti­ment coats the de­cep­tively ebul­lient open­ing ti­tle track as well. On Tem­ple, the south­ern soul- pop crooner de­liv­ers a bluesy num­ber with an up­lift­ing c ho­rus that sounds right at home in and out of church–as­sum­ing it’s one that adopts more lib­eral views.

James has a near for com­pound­ing lib­er­at­ing lyrics and gospel- tinged soul­ful rhythms. It’s a pair­ing that sounds sus­pi­cious ly cloy­ing on pa­per. How­ever, the man’s earnest de­liv­ery of gut-wrench­ing words–cou­pled with un­der­stated, yet mov­ing melodies – help form num­bers that in­spire in­stead of in­sti­gate.

That fl air cul­mi­nates in Stole The Show, a haunt­ing num­ber that’s per­haps best known by many in Kygo’s dance floor- friendly in­car­na­tion. Stripped of the Nor­we­gian DJ’s glossy synths and trop­i­cal house touches, the mid- tempo song takes on a more emo­tion­ally cathar­tic turn.

Chances are lis­ten­ers’ opin­ions of this bril­liant five-track of­fer­ing would bor­der on two ex­tremes. Some would find James’ can­did ob­ser­va­tions re­fresh­ing. Oth­ers might disc over that less- than- rosy de­pic­tion sofa so­cial in­sti­tu­tion– that com­fort sand con­demns– make for a rather dis­con­cert­ing lis­ten. – Ch­ester Chin

Red Vel­vet

The Vel­vet

S. M. En­ter­tain­ment

THOSE fa­mil­iar with Red Vel­vet’s bright and bub­bly K- pop con­fec-tions are in for a sweet sur­prise on the group’s sopho­more mini al­bum. Touted as the con­cep­tual suc­ces­sor of de­but full-length The Red, the songs take on a mel­lower dis­po­si­tion this time around.

The artis­tic shift is a re­flec­tion of the five- mem­ber out­fit’s dual mu­si­cal con­cept –“red” de­notes the girls’ vivid and bold streak while “vel­vet” por­trays their c hic and toned- down side.

While the new sonic treat­ment is not en­tirely un­ex­pected, the rel­a­tively sub­dued tem­plate of The Vel­vet takes a while to get used to. Af­ter all, pre­vi­ous re­leases such as Ice Cream Cake and Dumb Dumb have adopted a fun and quirky tem­per.

Which is why opener and lead sin­gle One Of Th­ese Nights sounds un­com­fort­ably un char­ac­ter­is­tic upon first lis­ten. Haunt­ing and hol­low, the down­trod­den bal­lad is a far cry from the en­er­getic bom­bast that’s been so syn­ony­mous to the act.

Put away what­ever pre­con­cep­tions you might have about K- pop though, and the song’s – and to many ex­tent, the al­bum’s – lan­guorous build- up de­serves praise. In a time where most re­leases from the genre fo­cus ont he brash and bom­bas­tic , One Of Th­ese Nights’ in­die sen­si­bil­i­ties is an as­sured step in the right di­rec - tion.

Else­where, the girls – Irene, Seulgi, Wendy, Joy and Yeri – ex­per­i­ment with smooth R& B and cool elec­tronic pop. The sexy Cool Hot Sweet Love ef­fec­tively show­cases a more ma­tured side by way of icy synths and spacey melodies. Light Me Out is a rel­a­tively ba­sic R& B of­fer­ing that stood out thanks to a groove-heavy cho­rus.

For ca­sual lis­ten­ers, The Vel­vet’s leisurely pace might bore. But that doesn’t take away the fact that the record adds a scin­til­lat­ing layer to the girl group. – CC

Iggy Pop

Post Pop De­pres­sion

reko­rds reko­rds/ Loma Vista

IGGY Pop has al­ways been a sin­gu­lar per­former, but his best al­bums have al­ways come with a strong foil to shape his far- flung vi­sion.

Fol­low­ing in the col­lab­o­ra­tor foot­steps of The Stooges’ Asheton brothers and the late David Bowie c omes Queens of the Stone Age front­man Josh Homme for the rum­bling new Post Pop De­pres­sion al­bum.

The part­ner­ship of­ten sounds like you would ex­pec t – with Homme, QOTSA multi- in­stru­men­tal­ist Dean Fer­tita and Arc tic Mon­keys drum­mer Matt Helders pro­vid­ing a heavy roc k back­drop for Pop to glide over with his time­less punk c ool.

Sun­day sounds like funk- lean­ing, de­cep­tively deep New Wave c arved from 1981, even as Pop sneers lines like “The street is as c old as a c or­po­rate law­suit.”

Pop fills the stately Gar­de­nia with Bowie- sque grandeur, even when he goes off on a tan­gent about get­ting ogled by “Americ a’s great­est liv­ing poet.” He drops hints about re­tire­ment in the epic Paraguay, whic h starts with talk of get­ting out of the busi­ness and ends with a rant about in­for­ma­tion over­load and the peo­ple who em­brace it. It’s so good, Pop may have found the per­fec t fi­nal song to sum up his ground break­ing c areer.

Photo: Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic

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