Albums of the week: From Christina Aguilera to Johnny Marr
It’s been a six-year wait for Christina Aguilera fans, but the singer doesn’t disappoint with comeback album Liberation. Also offering up new records this week are ex-Smiths man Johnny Marr and 5 Seconds of Summer.
LIBERATION — CHRISTINA AGUILERA
Liberation, Christina Aguilera’s first record in six years, is right on time with its focus on female empowerment. And while it may not reach the spectacular heights of her 2002 album Stripped (an unfair benchmark, let’s be honest), it’s an invigorating collection and arguably sturdier than her previous two efforts, Bionic and Lotus.
Punctuated with her staple interludes, the album is a melting pot of old-school Aguilera and some fresher sounds, complete with power ballads, contemporary pop and R&B/hip-hop-infused tracks. Twice and Masochist hark back to Aguilera’s earlier days, as does the feisty Sick Of Sittin’. Then there are the more modern-sounding efforts, like the punchy Deserve and feminist anthem Fall In Line, with Demi Lovato.
There’s a few forgettable songs that get eaten up by the decent ones, but overall Aguilera’s comeback was worth the wait.
5 SECONDS OF SUMMER — YOUNGBLOOD
The title of 5 Seconds Of Summer’s third studio album belies the confidence behind its strong, anthem-like tracks.
The NME Award-winning band, who have cemented their place as the definitive pop-rock band of recent years, have made sure to strengthen their position with their latest, quite impressive work.
Breaking out with the energetic and upbeat title single Youngblood, the 13-song offering (plus three bonus tracks if you decide to shell out for the deluxe edition) is packed with summery riffs and chant-like choruses that really do have a timelessness about them.
As expected from the Sydney band, the unmistakably pop album is suitably edgy and reflective in parts, such as Want You Back and Better Man, before picking back up again in feel-good and up-tempo Valentine and Meet You There.
Explosive vocals in Moving Along and a rock-sounding More ensure the band doesn’t stray too far from the alternative pop sound they have become known for.
THE BEACH BOYS — THE BEACH BOYS WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
After lending itself to the music of Elvis and Roy Orbison, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s wave of stirring symphonic sound now washes over some of The Beach Boys’ most celebrated songs.
At times — Don’t Worry Baby and In My Room — its contribution laps perfectly over the beautiful vocal harmonies, yet the orchestra’s presence on some of the tracks — like California Girls — seems shoe-horned, even gratuitous. However, it would take a heart of stone to not enjoy it. Who can complain when some of the greatest songs ever written are given a subtle lift?
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM — THE ‘59 SOUND SESSIONS
The opening song — of course it’s the title track — contains a blistering energy and there is an ominous cover of folk classic God’s Gonna Cut You Down, as well as the previously unreleased Placeholder, which fans will notice contains a little piece of another track that actually made the original album (no spoilers here...). Alongside these there are some energetic versions of other favourites, such as Great Expectations and High Lonesome.
The deluxe version of this release comes with a photo book compiled by the band’s drummer, Benny Horowitz, which gives a glimpse into the life of this rock band around the time The ’59 Sound was released.
Overall, this record is probably more for super-fans than casual listeners, but it’s a gateway to one of the best punk rock albums (and bands) of the last 10 years for those who do pick it up.
JOHNNY MARR — CALL THE COMET
What can we learn from Johnny Marr’s third studio album, Call The Comet? Well, that everything the legendary guitarist touches becomes effortlessly cool.
It’s an anthemic LP, packed with ethereal synth, energetic drum beats and driving bass hidden underneath a dark, grungy veneer. The songs distort their way through Marr’s signature chime-like guitar riffs, like a hazy kaleidoscope changing quickly from one melody to the next.
It is a timeless album, yet is somehow grounded in the 80s and highlights Marr’s stamp on the world. But what makes it so unputdownable is Marr’s surprising vocal talents, echoing and subtle, weaving through the tracklist and delivering the cool swagger we are so used to. It seals the album as intense and dark, yet brings bags of attitude, not unlike the creator himself.