Best of recent album releases

caitlinhardee

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M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
released Oct. 18

Celebrated electronic act M83’s latest album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, is a massive departure from more ambient past albums, providing an emotive journey that is easily accessible to music fans across indie, rock and pop boundaries and has escaped the electro niche to crack major alt radio stations. After the exulting energy of hit track “Midnight City,” listening to dreamy, lethargic song “Wait” is like floating in a pool of liquid stars, as sparse drops of synth and a soft rain of acoustic guitar fall over cosmic, aching violin pads and Anthony Gonzalez’s epic voice. Exuberant instrumentation under a child’s whimsical spoken narrative follow on “Raconte-moi une histoire,” continuing with a broad spectrum of beautiful, enthralling material that incorporates influences across almost every genre, from bass-laden electro funk on “Claudia Lewis” to soaring rock opera gestures on “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea.” Best of all, you get a double album, 22 tracks total for $14.99 on iTunes.

Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
released Oct. 24

I didn’t even listen to the previews before buying this album: it’s Coldplay, so you know it’ll be good. The question is, will it be curl up and read a book with a mug of tea good, or soaring heart-seizing cosmic choirs of inspiration good? As it turns out, some of both. It’s vintage Coldplay, personal and moving, shifting between a racing, thrumming tapestry of guitars and synths with Chris Martin’s characteristic whoa-ohhh’s on “Hurts Like Heaven,”to a rough, low break-your-heart croon on the more subdued track “Us Against the World.” The breathtakingly raw quality of Martin’s voice on “U.F.O.” is almost reminiscent of fellow UK rocker Gary Lightbody’s arresting, stripped-down vocals on live performances of “Run.” “Princess of China,” featuring Rihanna, echoes the most epic gestures of Viva la Vida, with a truly massive chorus. The lyrics are forgettable, but the sheer power of Rihanna and Martin’s voices together sweeps the listener away on a tide of sound. Brian Eno’s godlike production skills tie the whole album together in a shimmering whole as vibrant as its cover art. Do yourself a favor and grab this record. Does it sound like Coldplay? Yes. Is it groundbreaking? No. Will you enjoy it? Absolutely.

Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
released Nov. 1

Vocal titan Florence Welch and her collective are back with the follow-up album to 2009’s Lungs, and hers are as impressive as ever. The album opens with “Only If For A Night,” a massive number with her trademark layered vocals and ground-shaking, swelling drums. Welch’s voice whirls smoothly into “Shake It Out,” another soaring song that instantly lodges in the mind. The album’s third single “No Light, No Light” is a true alt-pop masterpiece, with the perfect radio-ready blend of aching, quiet verses, a soaring, catchy chorus and a powerful underpinning of drums. The album’s strongest artistic moments come in the soul flavor on tracks like “Never Let Me Go,” with Welch’s voice tumbling effortlessly between depths of contemplative spiritual gravitas and fluttering, heart-piercing heights. The soul influence comes out particularly strong on “Leave My Body,” with a rich gospel choir of Welch’s own backing vocals accompanying her as she wanders through an exquisite, earthy blues territory that makes you want to stand up, clap along and bear witness. If there’s a weakness to the album, it’s that each track is so entrenched in Welch’s consistently amazing vocal acrobatics, that the wonder wears off and grows tiresome. Buy the entire album and dump it in a playlist with some other artists to space out the effect.

Rihanna, Talk That Talk
released Nov. 21

Talk That Talk is front-loaded with a strong, diverse selection of tracks. Opening reggae-pop song “You Da One” is a relaxed return to Rihanna’s Caribbean roots, perfect for dancing slowly on the beach with a drink in hand. “Where Have You Been” incorporates euphoric Euro dance beats with rapturous accents of acoustic guitar. “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, is similarly laden with European electro influence, irresistibly lifting the listener and infecting your ears with the hopelessly catchy hook. The album maintains a strong flow all the way through, with contributions from Jay-Z and truly superb production. However, none of the tracks stand out lyrically to the caliber of “Love the Way You Lie (Pt. 2),” eschewing the darker themes Rihanna explored on Rated R and Loud for lighter dance floor material, albeit with an aggressive, self-empowered sexuality. My recommendation: Buy the first four tracks, bittersweet ballad “Farewell,” and “Fool In Love” from the deluxe version; take a pass on the rest.

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