David Guetta, ‘Nothing But the Beat’
David Guetta has a way of bringing out the best in his collaborators, as he did with Kelly Rowland’s “When Love Takes Over” more than two years ago. With a new lineup that includes everyone from Nicki Minaj to Timbaland and newcomer Jessie J, the house music-maker du jour is at it again. Minaj lays down a frenetic rap on Flo Rida’s first single, “Where Them Girls At,” and then owns “Turn Me On,” a song she, you know, “sings” that should earn her even more gay club play. Tracks featuring will.i.am (“Nothing Really Matters”) and Jennifer Hudson (“Night of Your Life”) are all right, though not exactly the most innovative among the other club cuts, but can’t come close to touching the one-two punch of Sia and Jessie J. “Titanium” is a big track, catapulting like it’s about to break through the sky, and Sia takes it even higher. Jessie J’s “Repeat,” another empowering song with soul and an irresistible hook, is better than any track off the Brit’s recently released debut. Both songs should, in a perfect world, give both artists more career momentum – thanks to Guetta, whose fifth album isn’t just a more diversified affair that pulls in all sorts of artists; it takes many of them where you’ve never heard them go before. Grade: B
Natalia Kills, ‘Perfectionist’
If Natalia Kills were a true perfectionist, as the title of this album claims, there’d be no room to complain about the 10 songs on her debut. But there’s plenty to pick at, including the half-as-good Gaga rips and seriously lame lyrics that don’t go deeper than a scratch. Not only does the British singer coin her own penis euphemism (“disco stick” is so three years ago; it’s “love grenade” now), there’s also a that-man-is-a-monster song called “Zombie.” It’s easy to see who she’s been listening to lately, which makes this shameless copycat problematic: She’s never as good as Gaga, which is a comparison that wouldn’t be fair had Kills not brought it on herself. So we have “Wonderland,” definitely passable (though it’s just a “Bad Romance” wannabe), and songs that are so abysmally written they wouldn’t even make it on a Ke$ha album (among them: “Superficial” and “Acid Annie,” an awkward tale of getting her boyfriend back). She even lacks innovation on the ballads, with “Broke” coming from the “Halo”/”Already Gone” family. And “If I Was God” isn’t bad, but Nelly Furtado’s done it better. Think of the 24-year-old as a breakup rebound: She’s a good time, but you’ll be thinking of someone else the whole time. Grade: C-
Mason Jennings, ‘Minnesota’
The dark turn Mason Jennings took on his last album, the gritty “Blood of Man,” isn’t so much a part of his latest. A dedication to his home turf, the singer-songwriter – inspired by starting his own family – loses the lo-fi vibe and goes back to earlier albums, but now with more piano. It runs through the simple “Bitter Heart” like a track from the closing of some sweet scene in an indie film. It’s used to jauntier effect on almost-pop “Raindrops On…” and as an intro to “Clutch,” one of the disc’s many highlights. Even when Jennings goes for something way leftfield, like on the Cuban-cut “Well of Love,” his risks are ones worth taking… and hearing.
Active Child, ‘You Are All I See’
Active Child, a pseudonym for laptop musician Pat Grossi, might as well be the love child of Bon Iver and Enya. Layers of instruments mount into sonic bliss as he draws in everything from synth beds and harpsichord to thrashing drum machines and, of course, his own voice – a pretty, always emotive link between the variance of songs. Most of them sound like they were threaded in his dreams, with “See Thru Eyes” taking on some kind of sacred life and another fave, “Hanging On,” sounding like he’s singing with himself, alternating between registers with a cool duality. It’s music that isn’t meant to be accessible or understood. In fact, you don’t even really hear it – you feel it.
Amos Lee, ‘Live from Soho EP’
Amos Lee’s voice captures an era in music that’s dying a slow death – a time when artists could really sing. He croons with a whiskey-washed rawness that maintains itself even in a live setting, as he does on this eight-song EP. Of those tunes, four are from his most recent album (most worth checking out: “El Camino” and “Windows are Rolled Down”), two off older albums (“Arms of a Woman” and the lovely “Night Train”) and a couple covers, including Neil Young’s “Are You Ready for the Country?” and Ween’s mysteriously somber “Buenos Tardes Amigo.” Each one’s a gem.
HEAR IT LIVE
8 p.m. Sept. 17 ($18)
The Magic Bag
22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale