Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
Bridges’ sophomore effort begins with “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand,” which sounds enough like his retro Southern-soul debut to placate continuity lovers. With the second song, though (“Bad Bad News”), the album shifts into something else—the Sound of Philadelphia, say, slowed down and reimagined as old jack swing except when it’s sped up to approximate Quincy Jones–era Michael Jackson. And if the lyrics aren’t always deeper than those of Bruno Mars, they have more integrity. The only song with bedroom eyes is called “Mrs.” for a reason.
My Mood Is You
The melody with which the saxophonist Joel Frahm bookends PJ Morton’s “First Began” borrows enough from “Never My Love” to make one fantasize about Cole’s tackling ’60s AM gold. But “tackling” isn’t what Cole does. Rather, he eases into songs as his quartet softens them up. This album’s clearest example is “Almost in Love,” the song that Elvis sings to Michele Carey in Live a Little, Love a Little right after Carey asks, “How about a little cocktail music?” If this be “cocktail music,” how about a lot?
Call the Comet
It feels odd to call a 54-year-old’s music the apotheosis of what was once known as “college radio,” but that’s what this album by Morrissey’s former right-hand man sounds like. Then again, Marr himself wrote the line “Now is an old re-run” (“Day In Day Out”), so maybe everything old really is new again. Layers of guitars shimmer and shine atop and beneath melodies hooked to catchy rhythms. That Marr can sing is a bonus—and apparently the main reason that he writes lyrics.
Zuider Zee was a Louisiana-by-way-of-Memphis power-pop band that recorded an album for Columbia in 1975, then, when it didn’t sell, broke up. These demos from a few years earlier, with the exception of an early version of “Haunter of the Darkness,” comprise entirely different material, material that its composer, the group’s lead singer Richard Orange, now considers superior to its counterpart on Columbia. He’s right. It’s also better played, better sung, better produced, and more eccentric. “Earworm music” one might call it nowadays.
“Drake Charts 7 Songs on Billboard Top 10, Besting Beatles Record,” proclaimed a recent headline. “Odd,” one might’ve thought, “I haven’t caught wind of Drake-mania.” But the headline was true. It was also misleading: In the streaming era, the methods that determine which songs chart and how they chart differ radically from the methods of the buying era. To say that Drake has “bested” the Beatles is as silly as saying that the Beatles bested Mozart (although they did—Mozart had zero Billboard hits).
Drake, by the way, is an inexplicably popular rapper, and his seven Top 10 songs come from Scorpion (Cash Money), his new 25-track album (available in “edited” and “explicit” versions). His beats are tame, his hooks minimal, his voice annoying, his subject himself. He credits his success to God’s “workin’ way harder than Satan.” He shrewdly observes that “a wise man once said nothin’ at all.” Then he doesn’t shut up. —A.O.