Meghan Trainor, ‘Title’
It’s true: We weren’t ready for this jelly. But Meghan Trainor plopped her booty down anyway and made a seat for herself with “All About That Bass,” 2014’s doo-wop polemic that had her preaching how all women are perfect “from the bottom to the top.” In an image-conscious industry built on supermodel ideals, releasing Trainor’s inner-beauty declaration as the first single was as bold as it was controversial – a daring takedown of the same machine that’s given her a place among her pop peers. The radio behemoth is the launchpad for “Title,” a debut that’s as lovable as Trainor’s own personal defiance. But even though “Close Your Eyes” rides the wave of body-positive anthems, “Title” isn’t all Oprah-style self-helpisms. And thank god. It is, however, all about that bass. Sound-wise, there’s a lot of bump and thump among the bunch, and its blatant victory laps are no more obvious than with “Lips Are Moving,” which tries to sustain the glory of her breakthrough single. Trainor fares better when she’s listing off her lady needs in an open letter called “Dear Future Husband,” a kitschy girl-group-esque throwback with a bebop bounce and some saucy bon mots. “I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed,” Trainor sings, setting up the punch line. “Open doors for me and you might get some … kisses.” Ultimately, Trainor’s “Title” is girl-power that, uh, goes down easy. Grade: B
Belle and Sebastian, ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’
Arcade Fire got the memo a couple years back when they turned to the romanticized sounds of ’70s-inspired disco for “Reflektor.” Now, indie darlings Belle and Sebastian cut through the “twee”-ness and start cutting the rug. Whatever led them to the glow of the disco ball, they’ve realized this: You, everybody, the “girls in peacetime” – we all just wanna dance. To shimmer their sound, the Glaswegian sextet enlists outside producer Ben H. Allen III, who swaps pastels for neons and Nick Drake for Giorgio Moroder, while still maintaining a navel-gazing melancholy and overall hopefulness. The payoff is immediate, as the wistfully wonderful opener, “Nobody’s Empire,” is like flipping through a photo album (“I was like a child / I was light as straw / And my father lifted me up then”). “Enter Sylvia Plath” sparkles with a Europop sheen that soars beyond the tortured soul of its namesake; is it suggesting that two-step has the power to release people from self-torment? Was ABBA all that Sylvia Plath needed to fend off her demons? Regardless, the song is a lively epic that fortifies the spirit. Said soul nurturing loops throughout the escapist vibes of “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance,” as frontman Stuart Murdoch finally addresses their motive on Belle’s most quintessential track off the album, “Ever Had a Little Faith?,” a jangly little daydream. “Drop your sad pretense,” Murdoch orders. After this, you’ll be left with no other choice. Grade: B+
D’Angelo and the Vanguard, ‘Black Messiah’
He’s bared his body – who could forget the shot-from-the-waist-up hotness in “Untitled (How Does It Feel)?” – but soul giant D’Angelo has even more to show you: His whole soul. Throughout his long-anticipated junior album, the polished, trend-bucking neo-R&B “Black Messiah,” a shock drop that arrives nearly 15 years after his iconic chest-baring, he uncovers himself but also a society in peril. “Black Messiah” isn’t all about despair, however. From these spirited songs emerges a moving manifesto: the power to overcome.
Ella Henderson, ‘Chapter One’
Suffering from AHS – Adele Hiatus Syndrome? A temporary cure is upon us: Ella Henderson, the UK “X Factor” finalist, and fellow Brit, giving us all the Adele we need in the meantime. It is, perhaps, unfair to compare the songstresses, but their resemblance is undeniable: Henderson, too, belts from the depths of her soul, and “Chapter One,” her solid-if-predictable debut, is a reliable source of blazing ballads.