Albums: Christina Aguilera, Youngblood, The Beach Boys, Johnny Marr
Liberation, Christina Aguilera's first record in six years, is right on time with its focus on female empowerment. And while it may not reach the spectacular heights of her 2002 album Stripped (an unfair benchmark, let's be honest), it's an invigorating collection and arguably sturdier than her latest two efforts, Bionic and Lotus.
Punctuated with her staple interludes, the album – produced by the likes of Kanye West and MNEK – is a melting pot of old-school Aguilera and some fresher sounds, complete with power ballads, contemporary pop and R&B/hip-hop-infused tracks. Twice and Masochist hark back to Aguilera's earlier days, as does the feisty Sick Of Sittin'.
Then there are the more modern-sounding efforts, like the punchy Deserve and feminist anthem Fall In Line with Demi Lovato, which show how the star has dabbled with styles apt for 2018 while staying true to her original vibe. There are a handful of weaker moments but overall, Aguilera's comeback was worth the wait.
5 Seconds Of Summer
THE title of 5 Seconds Of Summer's third studio album belies the confidence behind its strong, anthem-like tracks. The young NME Award-winning band, who cemented their place as the definitive pop-rock band of recent years, have made sure to strengthen their position with their latest work.
Breaking out with the energetic and upbeat title single Youngblood, the 13-song offering (plus three bonus tracks on the deluxe) is packed with summery riffs and chant-like choruses that have a timelessness about them. As expected from the Sydney band, the unmistakably pop album is suitably edgy and reflective in parts, such as Want You Back and Better Man, before picking back up again in feel-good and up-tempo Valentine and Meet You There.
Explosive vocals in Moving Along and a rock-sounding More ensure the band doesn't stray too far from the alternative pop sound they have become known for.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
AFTER lending itself to the music of Elvis and Roy Orbison, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's wave of stirring symphonic sound now washes over some of The Beach Boys' most celebrated songs.
At times its contribution laps perfectly over the group's beautiful vocal harmonies. The stirring strings added to Don't Worry Baby wonderfully complement Brian Wilson's tender falsetto. It is on these slower, contemplative tracks from the band's earlier work that the collaboration works best. In My Room seems to have found that missing harmony to add to the soothing doo-wop.
Yet the orchestra's presence on some of the tracks seems shoe-horned, even gratuitous. On California Girls it feels like short, barely noticeable arrangements have been tacked on. Moments like these may lead cynics to think this album is a shameless cash-in. However, it would take a heart of stone to not enjoy it. Who can complain when some of the greatest songs ever written are given a subtle lift?
Call The Comet
WHAT can we learn from Johnny Marr's third studio album, Call The Comet? Well, that everything the legendary guitarist touches becomes effortlessly cool. It's an anthemic LP, packed with ethereal synth, fast energetic drum beats and driving basslines hidden underneath a dark, grungy veneer. The songs distort their way through Marr's signature chime-like guitar riffs, like a hazy kaleidoscope changing quickly from one melody to the next.
It is a timeless album, yet is somehow grounded in the 80s and highlights Marr's stamp on the world, while also serving as evidence of the influences he has picked up from working with the likes of Joy Division's Bernard Sumner and The Cribs. But what makes Call The Comet so unputdownable is Marr's surprising vocal talents, echoing and subtle, weaving through the tracklist and delivering the cool swagger we are so used to. It seals the album as intense and dark, yet brings bags of attitude, not unlike the creator himself.
The Gaslight Anthem
The '59 Sound Sessions
THE opening song – of course it's the title track – contains a blistering energy and there is an ominous cover of folk classic God's Gonna Cut You Down, as well as the previously unreleased Placeholder, which fans will notice contains a little piece of another track that actually made the original album (no spoilers here...). Alongside these there are some energetic versions of other favourites, such as Great Expectations and High Lonesome.
The deluxe version of this release comes with a photo book compiled by the band's drummer Benny Horowitz, which gives a small glimpse into the life of this blue-collar rock band around the time The '59 Sound was released. Overall, this record is probably more for super-fans than casual listeners, but it's a gateway to one of the best punk rock albums (and bands) of the last 10 years for those who do pick it up.