Music reviews: 'Raven' marks solid if unspectacular return for Cole
Paula Cole (self-released)
Thanks to the mid-1990s rise to prominence of female singer/songwriters (thank you Lilith Fair!) and landing her signature tune “I Don't Want to Wait” as the theme song for teen drama “Dawson's Creek,” Paula Cole seemed destined for success. She followed 1996's smash album “This Fire” with the well-received “Amen” in 1999 and then pretty much dropped off the map. Her sixth studio effort “Raven” is a solid entry to her discography, though not on par with her best albums. The 11-track collection is low-key and mellow, with Cole's voice taking center stage. Highlights include “Life Goes On,” “Eloise,” “Sorrow-on-the-Hudson” and “Billy Joe.” The 45-year-old Cole may have another great album in her yet, but “Raven” isn't it.
Dust (Sony Legacy)
One of the few American bands to dabble in proto-metal in the early 1970s, Dust burned bright briefly before calling it quits. Sony Legacy has brought together Dust's 1971 self-titled debut and 1972's “Hard Attack” on a single 75-minute disc. “Hard Attack” holds up better than its predecessor with “Full Away/So Many Times,” “Thusly Spoken,” “Ivory” and “How Many Horses” especially effective. The self-titled release was solid and spawned some nice tracks in “Stone Woman,” “Goin' Easy” and “Often Shadows Felt.” Too bad Dust didn't continue making records. They were special.
James Blake (Republic)
British producer James Blake became a darling in indie circles with the 2011 release of his self-titled full-length debut, a compelling record that found Blake moving away from the dubstep sound that characterized his earlier singles. He continues in that vein on fantastic follow-up “Overgrown,” a sparse collection of 10 tunes that find Blake at his most somber and moving. The quiet title track sets the stage, and Blake also scores with “I am Sold,” “Retrograde,” “Voyeur” and stellar closer “Our Love Comes Back.” Patient listeners will be rewarded.
‘Victim of Love'
Charles Bradley (Dunham/Daptone)
Let's give soul crooner Charles Bradley major points for perseverance. The Florida native was 62 years old when he dropped debut album “No Time for Dreaming” in 2011. It had a retro Stax vibe and its popularity thrust Bradley into the spotlight at long last. Bradley continues to thrive on sophomore set “Victim of Love,” a groovetastic gathering of 11 songs from a man reaching his creative zenith just as he's about to become a senior citizen. There's not a bad song in the bunch, though Bradley shines brightest on “You Put the Flame on It,” “Let Love Stand a Chance,” “Dusty Blue” and “Hurricane.” Highly recommended.
Bring Me the Horizon
Who could have guessed that deathcore quintet Bring Me the Horizon had the ability to evolve musically? Yet on fourth album “Sempiternal,” the British band add electronic elements to the mix and the result is their best effort to date. After 2010's so-so “There Is a Hell, Believe Me I've Seen It, There Is a Heaven, Let's Keep It a Secret,” I thought BMTH had nothing more to say. Not true. The lads are clicking on all cylinders here, with the sizzling trio of “Can You Feel My Heart,” “The House of Wolves” and “Empire (Let Them Sing).” Good stuff.
‘Kids Raising Kids'
Kopecky Family Band
Nashville collective the Kopecky Family Band has, in the remarkable “Kids Raising Kids,” crafted one of 2013's most impressive debuts. The Karl Kopecky-fronted indie rockers make use of horns and strings, plus plenty of infectious melodies and vocal harmonies, on a record that had me smiling from beginning to end. The anthemic “Wandering Eyes” launches the set, and the Kopecky Family Band additionally impress on the groovy “Heartbeat,” “The Glow,” “Change,” “Hope,” “Waves” and “Andry Eyes.”
‘In and Out of Weeks'
I have a long-standing appreciation for pop and/or rock outfits that hail from Scandinavia. There seems to be a disproportionate number of great artists from that part of the world and you can add Norwegian newcomers Highasakite to the list. The indie pop five-piece makes quite a statement with their “In and Out of Weeks” debut EP, a five-track, 18-minute delight that serves as the perfect introduction to this talented band. Track down a copy of this.
‘Drunk Texts to Myself'
Trevor Moore (Comedy Central)
For those who still lament the loss of irreverent IFC sketch comedy series “The Whitest Kids U Know,” which signed off after 50 episodes and five seasons in 2011, comes the debut album from troupe leader Trevor Moore. Moore takes no prisoners on “Drunk Texts to Myself,” a Flight of the Conchords-type musical album. Though it's way over the top, profane and juvenile, “Founding Fathers Rap” “Tom Hanks Is an A-hole,” “The Pope Rap,” “Help Me” and “What About Mouthwash?” are hysterical in a middle-school kind of way.
‘The Late Great Whatever'
The Lovely Bad Things (Volcom)
You might find better bands than pop/punkers the Lovely Bad Things, but I doubt you'll find many that seem to have so much fun making music together. Their rough-around-the-edges debut “The Late Great Whatever” is a burst of sonic energy. With the five members trading vocals and instruments throughout, there's a slapdash kind of feel that sets it apart from others in the genre. Most songs work, though I especially enjoyed “Fried Eyes,” “Maybe I Know,” “North Bend,” “Rope Swing” and “Honeycomb Cocoon.”
Lindsey Stirling (self-released)
Fans of “America's Got Talent” certainly remember Season 5 quarterfinalist Lindsey Stirling, aka the Hip-Hop Violinist, who advanced to the 2010 quarterfinals. On her debut, Stirling puts her skills to work amid electronic, dubstep and pop melodies on the 12-track collection of original compositions. Opener “Electric Daisy Violin” is a winner, as are “Crystallize,” “Moondance,” “Transcendence,” “Shadows” and “Stars Align.” As talented as Stirling is, the novelty wears off over the course of 45 minutes ... but until it does, this self-titled slab is a delight.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.