Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘E*MO*TION’
Carly Rae Jepsen came out of nowhere, seized radio, dug a hole in your head and planted a little song there named “Call Me Maybe.” It grew and grew. It grew so much you are, at this very moment, singing it. And it’s just the beginning, now that she’s released her third album, which, again, will lodge itself into the depths of your consciousness. “E*MO*TION” stands as the singular best piece of pop music this year so far, and right about now, you’re thinking: “But Carly Rae Jepsen?” Yes. I know. Carly Rae Jepsen. Who sings “Call Me Maybe.” For real, though: “E*MO*TION” is a nonstop parade of hooks without being the “Call Me Maybe” confection factory it very well could have been. Jepsen and a crew of consummate producers shake up the formula that made her famous, and they do it with surprising stylistic flourishes, an ear for the ’80s and a lingering sweet-pop center. Cyndi Lauper, Prince and the Go-Gos are ever present on “E*MO*TION,” their panache coloring in songs such as the brilliant sax-tinged “Run Away With Me” and “When I Needed You,” with its “hey!” call outs (so awesomely ’80s, right?). “I Really Like You” pops with infectious flair, and Sia gives the heartfelt “Making the Most of the Night” – a volcano of a song, its chorus spilling out everywhere – her magic music-making touch. “E*MO*TION” is this year’s pop album to beat. Girls and boys, get to work. Grade: A-
Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique, ‘Love Is Free’
Remember 1997? You were fiercely smackin’ that sonic bubblegum Robyn gave you. Years later, in 2005, the Swedish “Show Me Love” singer reemerged as an edgier version of her ’90s self. Harder, sadder, dancier. And those jams were consistently on point; Robyn knew the human psyche. She knew heartache. She was… just like us. Now, she’s at it again. With keyboardist Markus Jagerstedt and the late producer Christian Falk, Robyn – fronting their new trio, La Bagatelle Magique – releases yet another mini-album (if her post-’90s career is any indication, Robyn doesn’t do full albums anymore). The four songs aren’t as emotionally fulfilling as, say, “Dancing on My Own” or “Hang with Me”; but, not counting the awkward framing and wonky vocals on “Tell You (Today),” they certainly hold up on their own. And, you know, it’s Robyn, whose presence alone makes even a tiny misstep like “Tell You” tolerable. “Love Is Free” is light on words and heavy on sound; it’s untamed and exhilarating, and its house-vibed early-’90s build, inspired. “Set Me Free” works up a sweat, too, as it turns back time another decade. Swathed in ’80s synths, it’s further proof that – solo or not – nobody gets bodies talkin’ quite like Robyn. Grade: B
Ryn Weaver, ‘The Fool’
Ryn Weaver went viral with a booming piece of jolty dream-pop called “OctaHate.” If you’ve ever heard of the Internet, you’ve likely heard the song. Unleashing the 23-year-old onto the world, the song opened the doors to her full-length debut “The Fool,” a decidedly less straightforward pop album than her first single suggested. Is it alternative? Is it indie? Is it pop? It’s all of these things. And more. There’s no box for Weaver to step in; that’s by choice. As she pursues a decently potent palette, from the Stevie Nicks-inspired “Here Is Home” to the percolating tribal-teemed “Runaway,” her wild ambitions could use some honing. And soon enough, then, every song will live up to the pop promise of “OctaHate.”
Noah Gundersen, ‘Carry the Ghost’
Unhurried and melancholic, Noah Gundersen’s honeyed voice emerges like an early-winter frost on “Slow Dancer.” A bed of electric fuzz and stormy strings cuts through the piano lead-in, and those who have not yet heard of Gundersen will, in that moment, wish they had sooner. And particularly for fans of Ryan Adams, one of Gundersen’s obvious influences. Like Adams, the 26-year-old is a rousing emotional current – the moon to your ocean – and his sophomore LP, “Carry the Ghost,” brims with reflective doozies that bury themselves as deep as deep goes.