New Release Sampler, 5/6/14
Well, here we are with another spate of new releases for you to explore. First up is Lykke Li, whose dreamy-but-dark edge still reigns supreme on her third release, I Never Learn. It's an ethereal ride, but hang on tight -- she's got some dark twists lined up for you. Speaking of ethereal, Sarah McLachlan releases her new Shine On, and we are particularly fond of the ukulele-kissed "The Sound That Love Makes." While we're talking fabulous female musicians, we're happy to present Rhapsody's Ones to Watch artist for May, Nikki Lane. Lane's retro-leaning, alt country sound is so old it's new again. We love her take-no-prisoners approach to music; definitely give her All or Nothin' a spin. Meanwhile, indie fans should check out the quirky, percolating lo-fi of tUnE-yArDs' Nikki Nack, Morning Parade's Pure Unadulterated Joy and '80s throwbacks The Horrors' Luminous. From there, new singles abound this week, including Chrissie Hynde's "You or No One," Willie Nelson's "The Wall," DJ Chino's "Dame una Noche" and Sensato's "Que Lo Que." Press play, and check out album reviews of our top five must-hear new releases below.
Hunter Hayes' much-anticipated sophomore effort, Storyline, hits the country/pop sweet spot, zeroing in on gently twanging songs with major pop hooks. Opener "Wild Card" is breezy enough to lift even the dourest of moods. Its driving beat and slinky guitar riffs amplify the feel-good nature of the song, and it pairs nicely with the epic, sprawling title track. But Hayes sounds exceptional when he slows the pace down and keeps bombast to a minimum. Highlights include "When Did You Stop Loving Me," "Love Too Much" and "Flashlight." -- Linda Ryan
However clumsy her appropriation of dance music on a song that disparages shaking one's ass, Lily Allen still hits her targets more often than not (she plays a Vice writer on "URL Badman"!) and is honest enough to admit when she doesn't know what she's talking about. Her net for hooks is bigger than most and sharper than ever, with the back-to-back "L8 CMMR," "Air Balloon" and "Our Time" revealing her pop gifts in full alignment, before going off-grid with nods to zydeco ("As Long as I Got You"), soukous ("Life for Me") and, yes, Auto-Tune ("Hard Out Here"). -- Dan Weiss
Corazón is Santana's fifth collection of collaborations and duets in the past 15 years, so most fans at this point are well familiar with the formula: The guitarist pairs his iconic hot licks with a variety of big-time pop singers. Where this set differs slightly from Supernatural and Shaman is in the increased number of Latin stars featured. Instead of Rob Thomas and Michelle Branch, we find Santana teaming up with the likes of Juanes and Diego Torres. Even "Yo Soy La Luz," featuring American jazz musicians Wayne Shorter and Cindy Blackman, is a foray into Latin fusion. -- Justin Farrar
Lykke Li, I Never Learn
Eternally heartbroken Lykke Li's rawest, starkest album to date, replete with piano and acoustic soul ballads, is still a 32-minute diamond of airtight popcraft, from the dubby plea "Silverline" to the bluesy "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone." But the best of all is "Gunshot," which bases its funereal melody on Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and builds to a gorgeous coda. It may be raw, but all those layered harmonies help continue to prove her pop dominance. -- D.W.
Atmosphere's insistence on live instrumentation may ensure that the duo won't reach the sampled glories of their early years again. Still, Southsiders is an improvement over the uneven slacker rap of 2011's The Family Sign. Ant's arrangements have expanded to include the ringing guitar echoes of the title track and the mandolin plucks of "Mrs. Interpret." Meanwhile, Slug moves between the navel-gazing of "Southsiders" and stories with vivid characters like "My Lady Got Two Men." Rap conservatives who dismiss Atmosphere because they're emo "weirdoes" are really missing out. -- Mosi Reeves