Albums: Greg Dulli, Justin Bieber, Best Coast and Allie X
GREG Dulli has been releasing music for 32 years, mostly with The Afghan Whigs, but also with The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins and solo.
Random Desire opens with Pantomima, which mixes rock and soul like primetime Whigs, but updates it with electronic and hip hop elements. It's a hell of a way to open a record.
Things slow down with Marry Me, a haunted tale of regret that will soundtrack the midnight hours of many people wondering "what just happened?". It fades out with the sound of a tide lapping a shore and fades into a song called The Tide, which rocks with the punky vigour of his earliest albums. But the violin-driven A Ghost could be a Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan song.
When your main gig is as venerated in left-field American rock as The Afghan Whigs, it's hard to get the same respect for your other recordings.
But if anything by Dulli deserves that breakthrough, it's Random Desire.
Justin Bieber has done the one thing no one expected, stripping away the pop hooks and memorable melodies that made him famous by sending hordes of young female fans into tearful hysterics.
Changes, his fifth album and first since 2015's Grammy Award-winning Purpose, is the sound of a singer exploring his artistry with a newfound confidence – and this time he has less to prove.
Tracks like Habitual and Available are driven almost entirely by their low-slung trap beats, with Bieber's layered, sometimes muffled, vocals working as an almost secondary instrument.
It's an album more concerned with establishing a groove than firing a salvo of songs into the charts (even lead single Yummy eschews hooks in favour of hypnotic groove).
Changes oozes a cool confidence not heard before in Bieber's music. Whilst some of its lyrics might miss the mark, it's a leap in the right direction.
Canadian singer-songwriter Allie X's new album is generously laced with electric, indie rock and retro funk elements. Cape God sees the 34-year-old singing about identity, belonging and redefining oneself.
Some of her darker emotions are clearly felt on the chart-friendly Devil I Know with its delicious, plodding beats paired with a captivating vocal: "Every time I take your lead feels like a curse. Every time I try to stop, feels even worse. Baby you're the devil I know. Better than the devil I don't."
Other highlights on the record include the album opener Fresh Laundry, a moody, beat-driven synth-pop song that fully shows off her impressive falsetto vocal, and the epic Love Me Wrong featuring Australian megastar Troye Sivan. The latter is both haunting and uplifting and builds to an anthemic chorus that reverbs through the eardrums.
No two songs on this 12-track electro-pop record sound the same. Allie X keeps the listener guessing with her varied collection of slightly left-field tracks.
BEST Coast return after a five-year hiatus with an album they say is the story of a second chance. Key track is ode to sobriety Everything Has Changed, with Bethany Cosentino singing over a power riff Joan Jett would envy: "I used to drink nothing but water and whisky... I used to crawl all the way back home."
The LA band's pop-punk hasn't changed much: catchy, short sharp songs, with sing-along choruses powered by Bobb Bruno's guitar.
While there are many albums about lives falling apart, there's fewer about putting them together and finding redemption, which this does without sounding preachy and smug.
Cosentino sings: "I used to cry myself to sleep reading all the things they called me... did they think? No of course they didn't" – and in these times where we could all be more kind, we can celebrate when she concludes in For The First Time: "The demons deep inside of me, they might have finally been set free."