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Reviews: Restraint sets the proper tone with 'This Time' and 'Every Little Star' albums

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 7:51 p.m.

‘This Time'

Lindsay Mendez and Marco Paguia (Self-produced)

‘Every Little Star'

Abigail Riccards (Self-produced)

Sometimes, restraint is a blessing in music. Singers Lindsay Mendez and Abigail Riccards prove that on their new albums. Both have lovely, strong voices, but they don't take them to extremes in range or volume. Rather, they present well-conceived and straight-ahead versions of songs by a collection of writers.

On “This Time,” Mendez presents songs as familiar as Budd Miles' “Them Changes” to her title track. In between are songs by John Legend, Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell and others. She is accompanied by an aggressive trio led by Marco Paguia.

Riccards' “Every Little Star” features better-known material, often from the world of standards: “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “How Deep is the Ocean,” “Smile” and “Waltz for Debby,” for example. But in the same way, she does them so well in a wonderfully clean voice and is accompanied by a group featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein. The album even features singer Jane Monheit on Joni Mitchell's “Circle Game.” Monheit is a co-producer of this release, and the two productions are good examples of how music does not need a major label to be good.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Lay Down My Heart'

Joe Locke (Motema)

Vibraphonist Joe Locke says in his liner notes that there is “no highbrow concept” to “Lay Down My Heart.” He says he wanted simply to make an album that would be a good listen. He has succeeded.

His quartet features pianist Ryan Cohan, the always hard-working bassist David Finck and drummer Jamieo Brown in a solid and easy-to-handle exploration of nine tunes. The music ranges from tunes such as the classic “Meaning of the Blues” to “I Can't Make You Love Me” and “Ain't No Sunshine.” Locke's work is, as usual, excellent as he creates a steadily shimmering, ringing tone for all of these tunes. His partners are as consistent in their backup work, so that any examination of individual play reveals a creativity part that leads to a good whole. While the album has a lot happening in it, the disc never loses its sense of a good time. That “no highbrow” attitude seems perfectly acceptable.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Stars Dance'

Selena Gomez (Hollywood Records)

Apparently, Selena Gomez wasn't quite ready to leave the neon-splattered emotional hellscape of “Spring Breakers” just yet. The first sounds one hears on her sassy new album are an oxygen-sucking sub-bass, trap snares and a note to her fellow party nihilists that she parties this hard only on her birthday (and every day is her birthday). It's almost as good as having shorts in every color.

“Stars Dance” is exactly the kind of album one makes in 2013 if you want to keep the pop sugar of the Disney 'tween cabal but mix in some broken glass and a club bathroom nosebleed. Its productions are rooted in today's pop-EDM default mode, but as that stuff goes, “Slow Down” is pretty capable, and the bhangra-appropriating “Come & Get It” is guilelessly silly enough to work.

Gomez is a resolutely average vocalist, but “Stars Dance” is like getting a piña colada the size of a basketball chucked at your head from a St. Petersburg hotel balcony. To be honest, that's kind of hitting the spot this summer.

— Los Angeles Times

‘Pura Vida Conspiracy'

Gogol Bordello (Casa Gogol/ATO)

Those devoted enough to buy the CD version of Gogol Bordello's new album, “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” in order to parse singer Eugene Hutz's lyrics will notice a typographical choice that captures the band's essence. The lyrics to their dozen-song album are WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. It's as though Hutz, the Ukrainian-born singer and bon vivant whose legendary vocal urgency has thrilled the festival circuit for nearly 15 years, wanted you to even more fully absorb the importance of the message.

Hutz is nothing if not a Type-A personality, one who barrels his way through “Pura Vida Conspiracy” with joyous abandon. This isn't news: He and his traveling, multiethnic band of accordion, brass, guitar and percussion aces have long traded in musical exclamation points.

“Pure Vida,” though, overwhelms as often as it inspires. Like a boisterous, long-winded guest taking over a dinner party, the tone, righteous though it may be, suggests someone who needs to be pulled aside and asked to take it down a notch or five.

Granted, Gogol Bordello, who are performing July 28 at Stage AE, is at its best when laying it on thick, and taken one by one, but “Pura Vida Conspiracy” has its share of gung-ho anthems. “Dig Deep Enough” could score an awesome NFL highlight reel and “Hieroglyph” is sonically surprising and super sticky. But it's the outlier, and only proves the point: The more one communicates with all-cap enthusiasm, THE LESS PALATABLE the message can become. (Unless you're Andrew W.K.)

— Los Angeles Times

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