This CD cover image released by Vp Records shows the latest release by Beres Hammond, "One Love, One Life." (AP Photo/Vp Records) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Show Dog - Universal Music shows the latest release by Toby Keith, "Hope on the Rocks." (AP Photo/Show Dog - Universal Music) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Sony Music Distribution shows "18 Months, the latest release by Calvin Harris. (AP Photo/Sony Music Distribution) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Syco/Columbia Records shows the latest release by One Direction, "Take Me Home." (AP Photo/Syco/Columbia Records) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Atlantic records shows the original motion picture soundtrack for "The Twilight Saga: Brealing dawn Part 2." (AP Photo/Atlantic) Purchase photo reprints »
This CD cover image released by Interscope/Polydor shows the latest release by Lana Del Rey, "Paradise." (AP Photo/Interscope/Polydor) Purchase photo reprints »
One Direction members, from left, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik and Liam Payne perform on NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP) Purchase photo reprints »
Take Me Home
Syco/Columbia Records, $9.99
One Direction’s sophomore album, “Take Me Home,” comes one year after the group released its debut, “Up All Night,” in the United Kingdom. The latter came out in America just eight months ago, has already sold 1.3 million units and is still in the Top 25.
The wholesome-looking quintet has joined Justin Bieber in the affections of girls everywhere, with their puppy eyes, trendy haircuts and rather good voices. And the boy band’s new album delivers on the brief, vaguely catchy songs that appeal to both the romantic and the wild side of teenage girls.
The record relies heavily on perky and melancholic guitars, and on romantic invitations like “I want to be your last first kiss” on “Last First Kiss,” which then veer into the leery “Tonight let’s get some” on the very honest and upbeat first single, “Live While We’re Young.” It’s full of riffs that haven’t been heard since the 1990s boy bands took their final bows.
“Take Me Home” is mainly produced by the same folks behind the group’s debut, including Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk and Savan Kotecha. English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran returns, too, co-writing two ballads (“Little Things,” “Over Again”) that break up the overall upbeat preppiness of the disc with memorable choruses.
The album feels relentless in rhythm, sometimes even during the ballads, with a homogenous sound and message — like a teenage boy who says all the right words in a rush to get what he wants. But this time they’re only singing the right words to get to your wallets and adoration. And they’re most likely going to get it.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Summit Entertainment/Chop Shop/Atlantic Records, $9.99
It’s a sad goodbye from “The Twilight Saga,” which sees its last installment, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” hit the big screen this week. The soundtrack reflects a chocked up melancholia that lingers over the sound like dust over old boxes of family photos.
This final film steps away from the romantic dilemmas of previous outings into a tense confrontation between vampire factions. Yet the album is more focused on delivering a soulful sound that is neither too arcane, nor too mainstream. It’s just quirky enough to be embraced by the hordes of teenagers who’ve grown up alongside Bella and Edward.
Nikki Reed, who plays Rosalie Hale in the film, makes an appearance on the instrument-stripped piano ballad “All I’ve Ever Needed,” alongside her husband and former “American Idol” contestant Paul McDonald. Green Day, the biggest act on the soundtrack, is bland on “Forgotten.”
And the rest of the songs alternate between diaphanous guitars like POP ETC’s “Speak Up” or dreamy tunes like Feist’s “Fire in the Water” and James Vincent McMorrow’s “Ghosts.” There’s also haunting strings, like on “New for You” by Reeve Carney, best known for playing the lead in Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
It’s all a bit wailing, like a highly enjoyable mourning parade that performs at its own death.
Hope On The Rocks
Show Dog-Universal, $11.88
Toby Keith wants you to know he’s not just a beer man. Whiskey will do in a pinch.
Perhaps expected from the album title, only two of the 10 new songs don’t reference some sort of drinking.
Most feature his favorite malt beverage in their titles or lyrics (“I Like Girls That Drink Beer,” “Cold Beer Country,” “Haven’t Had A Drink All Day” and a bonus remix of 2011’s “Beers Ago”), but whiskey gets its share of shout outs.
“Daddy makes the whiskey and mama say the prayers,” Keith sings in “Scat Cat,” a song about a family of moonshiners.
The songs are full of practical drinking advice as well.
“Always drink upstream from your cattle,” says an old man to a younger one in “Get Got.” “Don’t mix your whiskey with decision/Ask forgiveness not permission,” Keith sings later in the same song.
As for the music, Keith is smart enough not to mess with a winning formula. There are weeping steel guitars, omnipresent drums and an occasional fiddle. It all makes for sing-along stuff that’s sure to keep his fans happy and provide more than a few toast-worthy moments in concert.
He certainly shouldn’t have any problem finding a tour sponsor.
Columbia Records, $12.06
Calvin Harris’ third album, “18 Months,” plays like a greatest-hits record, and it is hard to shake the feeling that the electronic singer-DJ-producer is trying to sell us something that we already have.
A lot of the tracks have been released by their collaborator, and listening to them again on his CD is more nostalgic than anything else. However, the record reminds us just how good Harris is.
Working alongside female vocalists such as Kelis, Rihanna and Florence Welch, Harris seems to instinctively know which song suits which performer: There’s monster hit “We Found Love,” the perfect pop song with Rihanna; Kelis is the star of “Bounce,” with its funky repetition; and “I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding couples her twinkling dreamy voice with the electronic direction that Goulding herself uses on her new album.
But highlights aren’t just with female acts. Rapper Tinie Tempah, who experiments with pitch, is on one of the best tracks, the playful “Drinking From the Bottle.”
“18 Months,” with its big, thumping European beats, shows that Harris’ future is bright, whether lending his vocals — like on the hit “Feels So Close” — or producing in the background.
Lana Del Rey
Interscope Records, $9.99
Lana Del Rey’s new eight-track EP “Paradise” shows the singer is still in the same emotional flux she was when she released her debut album 10 months ago. She’s lamenting the pains of love.
Del Rey has an almost affected vulnerability in her voice, at certain points its quivering adds to the gravitas of the lyrics, like when she sings “Don’t turn around, leave me high and dry” on the Rick Rubin-produced first single, “Ride.” The song was co-written by Justin Parker, who helmed most of her debut, “Born to Die,” along with Emile Haynie. “Ride” is as perfect as “Video Games,” the single that propelled her into the limelight.
“American” uses simple strings and piano which allows her smoky, effortless vocals to take control. “Cola” continues the Americana theme, but in a playful, tongue-in-cheek way. And “Body Electric” sounds like it’s straight from a Western film, where Del Rey is again playfully poking fun at America — “Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn’s my mother,” she claims.
The 26-year-old’s entrancing vocals make it almost hypnotic to listen to anything she sings, but that’s not always the case: “Bel Air” and “Yayo” are just fillers.
One Love, One Life
Legendary crooner Beres Hammond, one of the most recognizable voices in all of Jamaica, is back with “One Love, One Life,” a 20-track double album with steady grooves and some bonafide classics.
Self-produced and recorded in his Kingston studio, Hammond has organized a record that splits into matters of the heart (“One Love”) and social consciousness (“One Life.”)
“No Candle Light” is instantly amazing, Hammond is ever the gentleman on the tender mid-tempo groove “In My Arms” and the romantic ballad “Lonely Fellow” is sincere.
The second album is calm and refreshing, full of songs that will uplift. One bright spot is the title track, where Hammond makes it clear that he isn’t “singing for fame.”
The 57-year-old came on the music scene in 1970s and he has a voice that doesn’t seem to age. He adds another jewel in his crown with his new album.