Randy Newman, “Dark Matter”
To the uninitiated, enduring singer-pianist-composer Randy Newman is dependably family-friendly, the Buzz Lightyear or Mike Wazowski of sentimental pop. But his fans know better. On “Dark Matter,” the 73-year- old’s first studio release in nine years, Newman puts a new varnish on his signature social commentary. It’s a soundtrack for the present political moment, and the vocal liberal pulls no punches. “The Great Debate” opens the record with a farce of carnival science and Broadway pageantry. “Putin” skewers the Russian president from the perspective of “the Putin man” himself. He’s not always contentious, though. On the album’s best tracks – “Lost Without You” and “She Chose Me,” which water the eyes like a Pixar montage – the aging baritone croaks with a young man’s passion. Political theater meets musical theater on the cinematic “Dark Matter,” a show fit for the silver screen.