Three new album reviews: Atoms for Peace, The Mavericks, Jewel
Jewel, 38, who was born in Utah, has had a career that has been all over the place, and her new "Greatest Hits" reflects all of the twists and turns over 16 tracks and nearly two decades. There is the earnest 20-year-old who burst out of the gate as a folkie, with hits "Who Will Be There to Save Your Soul," "You Were Meant For Me," and "Foolish Games." Then she still painfully earnest drove abruptly towards pop, with "Hands," and then further with the dance-oriented urban beats with "Intuition." In 2008, she made a country album, and in 2009 she recorded an album of lullabies. Who knows where she will go next. But the collection,which features striking new duets from Kelly Clarkson and the Pistol Annies, show promise and new ideas, and throughout her discography, Jewel has always shown that whether she is yodeling or purring, she is easy on the eyes. I mean, ears. Grade: B-. Out now.
Atoms For Peace which takes its name from an 1953 Eisenhower speech about the threats and benefits of atomic warfare has been called a supergroup for its assemblage of well-known musicians such as Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker of Beck & R.E.M and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco, who has toured with the Peppers, Brian Eno and Byrne. But the two dominant stars, from which the debut album "Amok" takes shape, are Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke (with his signature falsetto simmering and soaring to evocative effect) and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. The electronic tracks sound much like out-takes from recent Radiohead sessions except for one crucial and pleasing element: these songs are songs, rather than Radiohead's electronic experiments that even Miles Davis would find self-indulgent. These synth-heavy songs, with the blend of the explorative nature of electronica and the craftsmanship of rock, make this collection hauntingly hypnotic. Grade: B+. Out Feb. 26.
Good times are here again, indeed. The reason is that The Mavericks have reunited after no new albums for nearly a decade, and the new album, "In Time," resurrects the best ingredients of the "country" band that began in Miami and embraced a style that not only honored Buck Owens and Patsy Cline but incorporated Tex-Mex as well as dynamic Cuban rhythms. Front and center is one of the best singers in any genre of music the powerful Raul Malo and while not all the subject matter is 100-percent unbridled optimism, the music certainly is, with an explosion of danceable sound that turns the two-step into exponentially infinite steps. The mood is electric, the band sounds not just refreshed but rejuvenated. Song such as "Back in Your Arms Again," "As Long as There's Loving Tonight," and "Dance in the Moonlight" reveal the fun romance of country music, and the only shame is that this was released after Valentine's Day. But here's a soundtrack for the rest of the year, as well as Valentine's Day 2014. Grade: A. Out Feb. 26.