Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
V.V. Brown, ‘Travelling Like the Light’
On her self-declared “doo-wop indie” debut, the British cutie-pie sounds exactly like the thrift-store clothes she wears – all bright and very vintage. But for all the sugar-laced exuberance the Northampton-born singer-songwriter exudes, she’s actually kind of sad. She’s so good at faking a smile, though, and contrasting her laments with a lively ’50s finish, you’d hardly know. “Crying Blood” is an epitome of that as the shimmying music – sampling “Monster Mash,” and oddly doing it effectively – beams through its misery-is-murder woe. The two opening tracks are similar in that respect, but “Game Over” especially has fierce written all over its la-la-las and funky, rock-leaned sound. Substance is second to the real appeal of Vanessa “V.V.” Brown; she’s more stuck on making bodies dip and sway with her often-irresistible verve than draining brains with deep thoughts. Of the 12 tracks, only two are ballads. Good thing, since they’re both garbage. She’s better when her broken heart is given a Xanax lift, like when she sinks her teeth into the perky pop of “Shark in the Water,” a galvanizing sing-along. “L.O.V.E.” has a cute swing to it, and the slaphappy “Crazy Amazing” feels like it could’ve been cut during the era Brown is vibing. When she’s there, in her effervescent element, her sound is as cool as her look. (Available as a digital download until March 16.) Grade: B-
Vampire Weekend, ‘Contra’
So they’re in their own world again – the fanciful one that thrust the pop-pushing preps’ precious indie sounds into superstardom when they released their eponymous debut two years ago. And what a world it is: as colorful as Oz, and just as oddly charming. Over 10 refined tracks, the New Yorkers assemble songs with worldly washes, dosing them in reggae, Afro-pop and American synth-pop, all tailored like the J. Crew clothes they wear. Like cruising through the clouds, “Contra” is the breezy big brother to their first outing – challenging their transcendent sound, but never abandoning it. There are the catchy ooh-oohs of “White Sky,” the indie-score sweetness of “Taxi Cab” and a lotta heart in the bittersweetness of “I Think UR a Contra” – all of it’s artfully painted with the whimsy of a dream. Supplementing that is Ezra Koenig’s vocal instincts, fluttering, speed-singing and, on the LP’s hookiest bit “Give Up the Gun,” riding it like a wave. What he’s singing about is just as captivating (strange, too): “She don’t care how the sweets taste/Fake Philly cheesesteak/But she uses real toothpaste.” Hey, it’s their own weird, wonderful world. Grade: B+
‘Hope for Haiti Now’
The unthinkable tragedy that hit Haiti inspired a powerful night of music that’s now downloadable on iTunes, benefiting assisting organizations. The talent’s just gravy: Powerhouse covers from Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson, a new belty Christina Aguilera ballad and an understated Beyonce on “Halo.” Justin Timberlake, and his out label signee Matt Morris, made an earnest, haunting “Hallelujah,” and Madonna added pep with “Like a Prayer.” Make this music part of yours.
Corinne Bailey Rae, ‘The Sea’
This chanteuse’s first outing following her husband’s death is a fitting one – the lead-in casts a dreary spell on the rest as she incessantly sings “are you here” as a statement, not a question. Gone is the summery sweetness of her more tangible debut and its big career-making cut “Put Your Records On.” In its place is a lovely calamity that’s more intimate, like on the grieving coda. But too often it frustratingly evaporates into a haze.
‘2010 Grammy Nominees’
You know the noms: Lady Gaga’s radio-robbing “Poker Face,” Taylor Swift’s pop-country crossover “You Belong With Me” and the guilty pleasure of Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” Pink, The Black Eyed Peas and Green Day also have songs on the annual nominee disc, full of hits like these – and Kings of Leon’s ubiquitous “Use Somebody” – that snatched your ears. Or, in the case of Rascal Flatt’s sappy addition, forced a thousand needles through them.