Bob Mould, ‘Life and Times’
Standing in Bob Mould’s light is probably not the best idea. The 48-year-old’s a punk legend (Huesker Due in the ’70s and Sugar in the ’90s) – and in the queer community, a pretty damn cool gay rocker – but the first lengthy-titled single from his ninth solo disc isn’t, for all its alt-rock radio appeal, a strong representation of this breezy, 10-song set. Not that (deep breath!) “I’m Sorry, Baby, You Can’t Stand in My Light Anymore” is trash-bin bad – it’s actually a decently catchy, unassuming weepie – but it’s when “Life and Times” rocks that it, well, rocks. Establishing that best is the disc’s middle, spry with “MM 17” and “Argos” – two rad rockers that bleed Mould’s sig-guitar blazes. Vocoders only spoil a couple tracks (phew!) – like the closer “Lifetime” – and, just like on his last disc, “District Line,” he’s as self-assured as ever. And dirty. He tastes last night’s sex on gravely-voiced “Bad Blood Better” and uses cuss words like an R-rated Judd Apatow comedy. Except the R in this case means “Rockin'”.
Martina McBride, ‘Shine’
No one does cute – or sad kid parables – quite like country queen Martina McBride. Known for child abuse tearjerker “Concrete Angel” and queer-loved “This One’s for the Girls” – and gaining recognition in the LGBT community for recently tackling gay issues on Out.com – the big-voiced Southern songbird shares the producing title with Nashville hit-maker Dann Huff. “The Chicken Soup for the Soul” sentiments are maintained with building ballads (the lovelorn “Lies”), ’80s soft-rock (“I Just Call You Mine”), break-up blues (“Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong,” the album’s finest moment) and enough feel-good songs (bubbly summer-song “Sunnyside Up”) to make us forget about the recession. “Don’t Cost a Dime,” another one of them, reminds us that love don’t cost a thing (somewhere J. Lo is smiling), and the perky lead single, “Ride,” analogizes life to a rollercoaster over a barely-country beat. The short-on-twang disc, a tad too slick at times, is guitar-galvanized – even her signature troubled-kid song, “Wild Rebel Rose,” strays from the pretty piano-led style – and is often better for it.
MYNX, ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’
Silly and sexy meets the Scissor Sisters’ flamboyant bounce on this five-song EP brimming with an ’80s-dance flair and fuzzy synths. With cheeky lyrics – “My sunglasses match the cocaine tray, I’m so L.A.!” – the duo, Holly and Ara (who’s openly gay), mock the So Cal life, get campy sexual on “Kissie Show” and score with the infectiously dizzying “Wolfgang Bang.” It’s quite the ear orgasm – and if getting off in five songs is that easy, the full LP better come with Viagra.
Gabriella Cilmi, ‘Lessons to be Learned’
Using the Amy Winehouse recipe (minus coke, let’s hope) for neo-soul, this 17-year-old newcomer’s disc ages her by years. It’s probably the sultry kick in her voice, or maybe the fact that her debut’s production team borrows from her elders’ work – Winehouse, Duffy, Anastacia, and for yesteryear pop fans, Taylor Dayne. Which makes the album easy to say “yeah, yeah, yeah” to, especially with her divine voice, but by the end we’re left wondering: Gabriella Cilmi, who?
Vienna Teng, ‘Inland Territory’
She won our hearts with “City Hall,” a same-sex marriage ode. And on the soft-sung pianist’s fourth album, which features chick-loving guitarist Kaki King, she wins our ears, creating her most ambitious – and peerless – piece yet. “Antebellum” and “Augustine” sound like Teng-catalog cousins, but there are also traces of electronic (“White Light”), clap-happy blues (“Grandmother Song”) and vaudeville-style (“In Another Life”).
Chris Cornell, ‘Scream’
The dude’s got serious balls. Surely ditching the Soundgarden/Audioslave sound for an uber-producer Timbaland make-over is admirable – or maybe it’s career suicide? – but the odd couple’s album only works its hip-hop magic part-time. Cornell’s wailing howl wrestles with Timbaland’s tired signature synthy sound, and yields a few solid tunes – “Part of Me,” “Get Up” and “Long Gone” – that are enjoyable … in a talking-pig kinda way.