the Hollaback girl is back
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
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
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
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