Indigo Girls, ‘Poseidon and the Bitter Bug’
Even with some solid solo projects, there’s still nothing quite like Emily Saliers and Amy Ray: The Lesbian Yin-Yang. Those rich harmonies? Hard to live without. They’re in full-force on their major label departure – and first album in three years, a beautifully nuanced 10-song set that shifts the focus a bit from the music to the head-lingering lyrics (showcased further on the second disc, an acoustic set with one bonus track). With minimalistic production from Mitchell Froom, who also worked on the girls’ more rock-heavy “Despite Our Differences,” the record features emotionally-fueled lines like, “We will have caught onto something by the end of the day, but mostly we think about the one that got away.” Aww. Indigo Girls have always been the heart-on-sleeves type, and though “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” takes few risks sonically – though the R&B grooved “Digging for Your Dreams” is a welcome meander – it does vocally, especially when Ray trades in her hot-blooded rocker voice for a softer higher range on “Sugar Tongue.” Finally, a “bug” worth catching.
Kelly Clarkson, ‘All I Ever Wanted’
The prime “American Idol” suffered a bad split on her so-so last album, “My December.” And not just with her boyfriend. With most of us, too – and radio, record exec Clive Davis and pre-pubescent girls who lost their lungs to “Since U Been Gone.” So what a relief it was when she came running back into our arms with the desperately infectious “My Life Would Suck Without You.” The lead single from her fourth LP is make-up sex. And as predictable as it is, it’s not necessarily a reflection of the entire radio-ready disc. It’s the natural progression from chart-whore “Breakaway,” boasting some hella catchy hooks (especially on Pink-sounding “Don’t Let Me Stop You”), ethereal Sarah McLachlan-like vocals (set-best “Already Gone”) and a purity kiss-off co-penned by Katy Perry (“I Do Not Hook Up”). Even the grunge-pop of “Whyyawannabringmedown” works. Kelly, you’re forgiven.
Telling on Trixie, ‘Ugly, Broke & Sober’
The New York-quintet felt the recession when they realized their piggy banks were empty. But when fans from five different continents chipped in $20,000 to fund the Logo-approved group’s independent sophomore LP, a pop/rock set produced by Jamie Siegel (Lauryn Hill) was born. Out frontman Derek Nicoletto’s soul-bathed rocker chops, which has naturally drawn comparisons to David Bowie, are Silly Putty versatile, working their way through a combustible explosion of electric guitar and tenderly hitting falsetto on slowburners (sincerely corny “The Deepest Dive”). The ominous sounding take on Belinda Carlisle’s bubbly-pop “Mad About You,” cut with a blazing guitar riff, is refreshing, if a bit stalker sounding. None of it’s really ugly, though – even if some of it’s too rock-group generic, like the title track – but what’s really refreshing is the funk-rock “A.N.F.O.,” an elusive Scissor Sisters-sorta sing-a-long. That catch, like many others, will test your musical sobriety.
Peter Doherty, ‘Grace/Wastelands’
The Kate Moss-linked lad’s solo debut is pretty charming, with oft-melodic mid-tempos that surprise with Doherty’s slurry delivery that sounds crack-influenced. Which sounds about right. Catchiest is first single “Last of the English Roses” – the video of which ends in a man-on-man smooch. Once a rentboy, now just kinda queer.
U2, ‘No Line on the Horizon’
Say hello to a new ‘tude. Dabbling in a newfound flair, leaving some WTF-ing over their first glam-rock single “Get On Your Boots,” the humanitarian group’s 12th studio album – delivered five years after their last LP – is a grower, revealing a graceful veer toward an experimental shake-up. You’ll wanna be let into the sound.
The Decemberists, ‘The Hazards of Love’
Epic in its execution, the always-stellar band’s latest swaps indie-pop for a more rock opera vibe. ADHDs, be advised: Its story – involving two lovers, a lecherous rake and a forest queen – is attention hungry. And set against atmospheric arrangements (especially that on ethereal-rocker “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid”), it’s totally worth digesting.