Hear Me Out
Dev, ‘The Night the Sun Came Up’
“It’s Dev,” the punkish pop up-and-comer – first entering mass consciousness with a sampled spot on Far East Movement’s hit “Like a G6” – announces halfway into her debut. And before the official release of this long-delayed disc (originally slated to drop a year ago, after the release of a flurry of viral Internet videos), that mention would’ve seemed appropriate: “Bass Down Low,” on which she’s posing as a Ke$ha wannabe on top of a Black Eyed Peas bass-thumping beat, left her in the dark… and wisely never made the cut. She’s better off with the songs on “The Night the Sun Came Up” that at least attempt to have a point, and do it without sounding like just another Auto-Tuned name on a catchy thump-thump. That originality is established immediately with “Getaway,” morphing from haunting lost-girl ballad into self-professed “swag-pop” rap throw down. For as good as some of the songs are, especially the string-flexed stargazer “Perfect Match,” this bipolar identity crisis begets a disjointed album that just makes Dev come off as artistically eager-to-please and desperate for cool cred in too many genres. Pop kids will go for the suggestive butt-grinder “In My Trunk”; the harmonious emo-angled “Shadows” is aimed at the hipsters. “Naked” is sexy-time without the payoff, floundering through a surging disco-lined club track produced by the Cataracs, who helped discover Dev – and definitely not as titillating as the title suggests. First times can be so awkward. Grade: C+
Bruce Springsteen, ‘Wrecking Ball’
The poetic voice of liberal America – the suffering, the broke, the hopeless – returns for a feisty follow-up to 2009’s “Working on a Dream.” It’s still a work in progress, as it turns out, on “Wrecking Ball,” where Bruce is looking forward to a “Land of Hope and Dreams,” imagining a train of people (hat-tip to Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”) – mostly dark horses, from “saints” to “whores” – headed toward freedom, peace and glory days. For nearly seven minutes he wails with mutually felt fervor, the gruffness of his voice rising with the music like an active volcano, before launching into a rousing spiritual celebration of life on “We Are Alive,” capturing the rawness of music from his prime – down to the scratchy LP crackles that open the track. “Wrecking Ball” is steeped in wide-open emotions of not just a city of ruins but a world of ruins, affected by warfare, commercialism and broken politics. His advice: “Don’t fall to your fears,” and he really means it; the title track is a powerful anthem of riled-up rage and perseverance, set to a driving thunderous march of drums and the late Clarence Clemons’ bittersweet sax accents. Bruce Springsteen isn’t The Boss for nothing. Grade: B+
The Jezabels, ‘Prisoner’
The dreamy sky-high reach of Hayley Mary’s voice elevates the Aussie quartet’s entire full-length U.S. debut, a super-strong DIY first that explores new wave rock with unwavering panache. Lots of influences are at work here – namely Tori Amos and Kate Bush, who do enigmatic weirdness just as well – and so “Prisoner” feels as much an homage to classic-rock as it does a forward-thinking goth exploration. Drums thrash, guitars rev and Mary’s ethereal lilt soars (don’t miss three-in-one splendor “City Girl”), only sometimes wailing so hard it seems she’s lost track of what she’s singing. The emotions, however, come through loud and clear.
The Shins, ‘Port of Morrow’
New album, new slang: 10 songs, however slight, that delight with frontman James Mercer and band’s wistfully indie-rock sound… but now more pop than ever. With new mates on board after all members but Mercer dropped out (or got thrown out, or something), their fifth album – with its ear-trapping ’60s-esque melodies and sunny-day vibes – reveals a group in limbo, straddling the lines between maintaining indie-roots distinction and mainstream pandering. A couple constants connect the dots: Mercer’s affecting tenor and thoughtful turns of phrase; songs that aren’t necessarily life-changing (sorry, Natalie Portman) but at least worth passing the time with.