Amy Grant, ‘In Motion: The Remixes’
When you’re grinding up against a shirtless prospect in the thick of a gay dance orgy, nothing sets the sexy-time mood quite like some Amy Grant, right? You know, with God’s disco light shining down on you. No? Well, start believing. Prayers have been answered nearly 40 years into her career as the reigning Christian-music queen, and not long after Amy granted her first gay press interview (I chatted with her in 2013, the first time she’d addressed her fanatical queer following). Now, with “In Motion: The Remixes,” you can sweat out your sins. Yet another career transformation for the genre defier, Grant’s beloved ’90s pop and spiritual tapestries – admirably, even ones you wouldn’t expect (“Better Than a Hallelujah”) – are exalted with new EDM life from DJs du jour. Maintaining the integrity of singles “Baby Baby” and “Every Heartbeat” – songs off Grant’s 1991 crossover behemoth “Heart in Motion” – Dave Aude and English duo Moto Blanco smack each song, respectively, with amped buoyancy. “That’s What Love Is For,” Grant’s big slowie from the same 23-year-old album, stands out as an even greater achievement; without losing the heart and soul of the song, Chris Cox pulls drum thumps and swelling synths into the original’s soaring crescendos, turning the ballad into a bombshell. “You’re Not Alone” and the cut-up “Love Will Find a Way,” along with the surprisingly terrific cinematic revamp of the digital-only non-hit “Out in the Open,” also deserve praise. Somewhere up there, Jesus is jivin’. Grade: B+
La Roux, ‘Trouble in Paradise’
Listen, I love a good, stupid butt jam as much as the next rump shaker, but I also know that, in the quiet solitude of my own mind, I turn to Robyn, Sia or some old-school Erasure to give my heart the same feeling my feet get the moment that beat drops. Moving me similarly is La Roux’s latest synth-pop endeavor, a front-to-back doozy from the androgyne that’s full of euphoric feels. The serene scene painted on “Paradise Is You” – the “sandy beach,” “everybody loving” – is only a diversion from the bitterwsweet story that unfolds. The real “paradise” isn’t a place, but a person – a missing one. It’s lonely having everything and nothing, and that isolation which Robyn, too, knows so well is La Roux’s crux as she underpins an irresistibly tight nine-song set with an emotional release of riffs on loss, the emptiness of casual sex (the breezy “Sexotheque”) and finding yourself again (“The Feeling”). The shape-shifting, sax-accented “Let Me Down Gently” has her fretting the fall; she’s looking for a break in the chaos during “Silent Partner,” an emotional purge that awesomely pairs girl-group swagger with what sounds like the theme song from “Batman”; and on “Cruel Sexuality,” she’s suffocating within the walls of that pandemonium. All of it’s as intoxicating as love itself. Grade: B+
Angus & Julia Stone, ‘Angus & Julia Stone’
It wasn’t supposed to happen. Sibling duo Angus and Julia Stone were going their own way after they released “Down the Way” four years ago. But you don’t say “no” to Rick Rubin, the legendary folk-rock music-maker whose authentic touch is all over the Aussie’s musical resurfacing – self-titled to let you know it’s important. Because it is. Resonating with their trademark realness and Rubin’s timeless production (see the perfectly poignant “Get Home”), “Angus & Julia Stone” is the album you didn’t know was missing from your life.
Jenny Lewis, ‘The Voyager’
The California rays are hot on “Just One of the Guys,” a West Coast-inspired dream-pop scorcher from Rilo Kiley hell-raiser Jenny Lewis. Soaking up more of that sun, the frontwoman’s long-awaited solo release, her first in six years, is a rhythmically punchy ’70s-inspired throwback with beach vibes beaming from its low bass womps and electric guitar zags. Even when those clouds roll in during the dreamy title track, a thoughtful closer leaving you with something to ponder, Lewis’ lo-fi contemplation is like looking out at the endless sky.