k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, ‘Sing it Loud’
On “Sing it Loud,” k.d. lang’s first album in 20 years with a core band, she does just that – blasting through the big-sounding shell of opener “I Confess” with that creamy croon of hers. It’s like lang sprung from a slumber – that of the solid-but-sleepy “Watershed,” released three years ago – and woke up as Roy Orbison, whom the song mirrors. Reaching back to her country roots, first earning her fame in the early ’90s, the next nine tracks are as close as we’ll probably ever get to “Absolute Torch and Twang,” the last straight-up country album of the Canadian’s career. And that’s still not very close. Sure, there’s banjo on “Habit of Mind” and slide guitar on her dreamy interpretation of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven” (the only song not with a k.d. credit), but “Sing it Loud” marries many of the musical meanders of lang’s career. She’s in top form when she’s recalling an old flame on “The Water’s Edge,” a sophisticated love song with a melodic sweetness that lang pulls off effortlessly. It’s that ease that makes “Sing it Loud” such a pleasantly cushy listen. The Siss Boom Bang, an alt-country collective that shakes up the arrangements without sacrificing the fluid feel of the album, helps make that long-coveted voice not just new again, but more thrilling than it’s been in years. Grade: B+
Christina Perri, ‘lovestrong.’
From tip-making waitress to hit-making songstress, Christina Perri’s first single, “jar of hearts,” turned her into an overnight name. No wonder: The barebones piano ballad is a been-there-done-that doozy – someone loves you, dumps you, wants you back – and is a fine showcase for the 24-year-old’s precocious voice that’s part Regina Spektor and part Sara Bareilles. That sound is particularly present on “mine,” a song mixed by Michael Brauer – one of Spektor’s song smiths – that could easily be an outtake from Spektor’s “Far.” The fetching “bang bang bang,” a jaunty song that takes girl power to a new pistol-packin’ level, is a biting Bareilles-like kiss-off. That’s as upbeat as it gets, but the mid-tempo “Arms,” the second single, is a guitar-grower that thumps and charms with telling lyrics like, “I hope that you see right through my walls.” She doesn’t break through many, but suckers for sappy pop love songs – from the cute “miles” to the pretty, soul-searching “bluebird” – should find Perri pretty easy on the ears. Even if she’s only truly pushing outside the pop confines she – or her label – are comfortable with on the loose power ballad “the lonely” and “tragedy,” both moody orchestrations, there’s no question that “love” is strong. Grade: B
‘Glee’: The Music Presents The Warblers
McKinley High’s competition, The Warblers, on the TV juggernaut “Glee” isn’t actually competition at all. This season, the Darren Criss-as-Blaine machine, with Chris Colfer’s Kurt and a bunch of other boys, is sucking up all the performance points. And now they have their own CD, which is more listenable than any of the actual “Glee” season two compilations. The real bust is the Criss-Colfer duet on “Candles,” which never sparks. But otherwise, the a cappella arrangements are clever takes on big pop hits, like “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Teenage Dream.” They even take a Keane song somewhere only they know.
Alison Krauss & Union Station, ‘Paper Airplane’
One of the best voices of any genre belongs to Alison Krauss, who reunites with Union Station for a follow-up to their 2004 critical darling “Lonely Runs Both Ways.” “Every silver lining always seems to have a cloud that comes my way,” she sings with a meek sadness on the moving title track. But it’s not just darkness that’s still hanging around; many of the Americana ditties – from Dan Tyminski’s earthy “Dust Bowl Children” to Krauss’ gorgeous-but-dragging “Dimming of the Day” – sound intent on recapturing old magic. But you know how it is, sequels rarely do. “Paper Airplane” is proof.