Keep chasing waterfalls
TLC TLC 852 Musiq
TLC, the iconic 90s-era girl group, is back after 15 years away and these women are clearly not wasting anymore time. “We don’t need no introduction,” they boast on the first song of their new self-titled CD. “No, we don’t need no instructions/We already paved the way.”
They’re right. For those of you who have no idea whom TLC is, we’ll wait while you go to the closest older person who can explain how important No Scrubs,
Waterfalls and Creep were for a generation raised on the band’s mix of female empowerment and socially conscious lyrics. (Ed Sheeran is clearly a fan – he had to credit No Scrubs for his hit Shape Of You.)
Back? OK. The self-titled album is from the surviving members, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes died in a 2002 car crash. The new album heartbreakingly includes an old recording of Lopes’ voice as an interlude, a nice way to include her in 2017.
As for the album, funded in part by Kickstarter, it’s a kaleidoscope of different sounds and moods, befitting an album with some 20 different songwriters. It’s executive-produced by Ron Fair, who has worked with Vanessa Carlton and the Pussycat Dolls, while Watkins had a hand in almost every song.
It veers from the stripped-down acoustic of Perfect Girls – a sort of updated Unpretty – to the R&B-flavoured Joy Ride. There’s a techno-touched Scandalous and a 70s-disco boogie It’s Sunny, which samples Earth Wind & Fire.
Watkins and Thomas look back a few times – they take a nostalgia tour with Snoop Dogg on Way Back that name-checks Prince and Marvin Gaye – and forward with the electro-poppy Haters. They get serious on the haunting protest song American Gold.
You want coherence? Well, it’s overrated. This is TLC, after all. It’s just a joy to hear them again and to have it be with a new, strong joyous album seems even better. We’ve waited long enough. What are you waiting for? – Mark Kennedy/AP
Imagine Dragons Evolve Universal
IMAGINE Dragons, after taking some time to regroup with their last album Smoke And Mirrors, are ready to blur the boundaries of rock and pop again.
Evolve blends big rock anthems with elements of hip-hop, R&B and EDM to create a catchier, more current sound, the sound that fuelled smashes Radioactive and It’s Time. Rock purists may hate that sound, but it’s way more likely to grab listeners on pop radio than anything more traditional.
The first single, Believer, with its hip-hop-inflected verses and EDM drops in the chorus, shows just how flexible singer Dan Reynolds’ vocals can be. The opening of the follow-up, Walking
The Wire, could be a country hit before it builds into a massive rock chorus. Mouth Of The River welds grunge-era alternative verses and a chorus that could have come from Adele’s last album.
The Las Vegas band’s willingness to throw out rock conventions in the name of pursuing the best musical idea is refreshing, especially when the spare, Lorde-like verses give way to inventive percussion in Thunder or the 80s-inspired soul of Start Over that would fit nicely with the new Paramore album.
Unlike previous albums, Imagine Dragons worked with producer Alex da Kid, who discovered and signed the band to his label, as well as Mattman & Robin, and Joel Little, who worked on Lorde’s debut. And those new collaborators seemingly sparked renewed risk-taking from the band.
Dancing In The Dark, for example, incorporates the electro-soul of James Blake so effectively that it could even hook whatever hipsters may stumble onto it.
With Evolve, Imagine Dragons seem ready to transcend genre labels – they just want to make good music that interests them. – Glenn Gamboa/Newsday/Tribune News Service
Fleet Foxes Crack-Up Warner
AFTER two acclaimed albums of lush, heavenly harmonies and gentle, Laurel Canyon orchestration, Fleet Foxes went into hibernation. Crack-Up is their first since 2011; in the interim, leader Robin Pecknold took classes at Columbia, and their former drummer Josh Tillman grabbed the spotlight as Father John Misty.
Crack-Up is a more complex, darker album than their first two. Songs are full of questions: “If I don’t resist / will I understand?”; “Who stole the life from you?”; “Can you be slow for a little while?”
Several songs are suites that stretch past seven minutes and move from lonely, solo ruminations into densely orchestrated grandeur, but whereas in the past the tone was triumphant and affirming, here it is often dissonant and conflicted. The signature harmonies are still there, as are moments of beauty in songs such as If You Need To, Keep Time On Me and the title track. The sun-dappled melodies have given way to something deeper and more demanding but still rewarding. – Steve Klinge/ The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service