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Sinead O’Connor, ‘How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?’
Does nothing compare to Sinead O’Connor? On her ninth album, and first since the Irish self-proclaimed “quarter-gay” released “Theology” in 2007, that could very well be true, and for many reasons. That sterling voice, in full glorious effect on “How About I Be Me,” has been overshadowed with headline-hogging antics: a suicide attempt, marital trouble and Twitter outbursts. Her latest album – released 25 years after her debut – reaffirms her as a gifted singer with breathtaking abilities, refreshing frankness and a big set of balls. “Queen of Denmark,” swinging from schizophrenic highs and lows, is so self-deprecating and hilariously fuming with bitter rage that, even though it’s a cover of a John Grant song, it mingles seamlessly within a set that confounds with the quirkiness of O’Connor’s own narratives: child abandonment darkens the disturbing “I Had a Baby”; “4th and Vine,” the album-launching hoedown, joyously recalls her wedding day; “Old Lady,” building into a classic rocker, has her holding out for someone who will “make me laugh like an idiot, not be so serious.” But when she’s cold sober, there’s no denying she’s at her most powerful. She sings junkie confessional “Reason With Me” like she’s exhausted every other option, her voice weary and breathless. “Back Where You Belong” is even more heartbreakingly beautiful. So fine. Be you, Sinead. We wouldn’t want it any other way. Grade: B+
Yuksek, ‘Living On the Edge of Time’
Pierre-Alexander Busson, better known under the Yuksek moniker, could only repress his pop-boy for so long. Take leadoff single “On a Train,” a wonderful acid trip of echoing, new-wave escapism. It’s far off from the classically-trained Frenchman’s first album, still the club-kid kind but rougher around the edges and certainly not as mainstream-tailored. And hey, he’s better for it. “White Keys” taps into a stayed whimsicality that he first introduced on that disc, but layers it in distorted synths and handclaps, and as it reaches a pretty amazing break it ripples through you like the best ’80s Euro-disco. On the flip side, there’s “Dead or Alive,” a bare bass-driven gem that gels from indie to pop-rock anthem. “Always on the Run” and “Fireworks” work out his piano chops, both percolating under a cool whomp-whomp beat; he goes indie-acoustic on “Off the Wall,” before blasting into a psychedelic dance party; and the cascading shimmer of “To See You Smile” is trance-inducing. Same goes for “You Should Talk,” a surging throwback with an irresistible outer-space sound that conjures up one of the dreamiest melodies. There’s no escaping it. Yuksek’s myriad of funk, old-school dance and a hankering for the cool-kid trends of today yield surprisingly good results, making “Living on the Edge of Time” not only fun to listen to but completely accessible to the music snobs who will try – and fail – to resist it. Grade: B
The Magnetic Fields, ‘Love at the Bottom of the Sea’
Frontman Stephin Merritt’s weirdly awesome love letter to a queen, prog-pop song “Andrew in Drag,” was gonna be hard to top: It’s a breezy earworm that’s smart, cheeky and about a straight guy’s romantic infatuation with a cross-dresser. If slight at times – with 15 tracks that clock in at just over 30 minutes, there’s little substance – the 10th disc from the longtime indie-popeteers aren’t taking themselves too seriously with songs that sarcastically take on pre-marital babymaking (“God Wants Us to Wait”) and hiring a hitman to blow off “Your Girlfriend’s Face.” But they pull their tongues out of their cheeks for a few ditties: “I’d Go Anywhere with Hugh” is a cute slice of ’60s sunshine, and that sweetness moves through “The Only Boy in Town,” too. One word: magnetic.
Amy Ray, ‘Lung of Love’
Off she goes again, building on the folk elements she and Emily Saliers continue to explore as the Indigo Girls. Ray’s sixth studio album in a decade makes the gruff-voiced tomboy uniquely profound, but the album falls shorts of her usual genius. And that’s not only because tracks like “Glow” go for the easy sing-along hook. “Lung of Love” is one of her most unbalanced works, launching with the dragging mid-tempo “When You’re Gone, You’re Gone,” and then going for an odd change of pace that’s completely out of place on bluegrass throwdown “The Rock is My Foundation.” She’s still got it on soft-rocker “I Didn’t,” the only real standout on “Lung of Love.” The rest mostly just reveals that Ray should catch her breath before the next release.