New Release Sampler, 6/17/14
It's a week for the divas! Both J.Lo and Mary J. Blige have new albums out this week. Jennifer Lopez's A.K.A. is a smokin' hot, booty-shakin' slide into summer, as she's joined by Iggy Azalea, T.I., French Montana and Pitbull. Mary J. takes us to the movies in spectacular style with her Think Like a Man Too soundtrack, in which she continues to prove why her luscious, buttery soul is adored worldwide. And then there's Lana Del Rey, who returns with Ultraviolence, a smoky, woozy, psychedelic-touched set produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.
Meanwhile, the men are represented by Willie Nelson, whose Band of Brothers marks the 81-year-old's return to writing his own songs. David Gray is also back with the compelling Mutineers, his 10th album to date, while Linkin Park get their scream on with The Hunting Party. But one of our must-hear pick comes from Mali Music, whose powerful soul music is just blowing us away. We also have new singles from Ryan Adams, La Roux, Porter Robinson, Tank, Morrissey, Five Seconds of Summer and much, much more. Give our sampler a listen, and check out our reviews of the top five new albums below.
Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence
Ultraviolence is well-trodden territory for Lana Del Rey, who indulges in creeping melodrama to show the dark sides of summer and celebrity. Produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, the album contains fewer trip-hop beats and more lounge-y nods to classic rock, from the swirling "Cruel World" to the woozy "West Coast." She continues to ask the void if it will "still love her," between nervous numbers like "Shades of Cool" and satirical ones like "Brooklyn Baby." But her greatest gift is to keep us guessing, as in which way we are intended to read the title "F*cked My Way Up to the Top." -- Dan Weiss
Linkin Park, The Hunting Party
Few bands would say that splitting with sonic guru Rick Rubin (who produced the previous three Linkin Park full-lengths) helped their music. Yet that's exactly what happened with The Hunting Party. Quite honestly, Rubin's pop-oriented production would have been an ill fit for a set of songs steeped in hardcore rage, grinding hip-hop beats and thoroughly dystopian lyrics. Pieced together like a collage, the record still is an arty affair from a band known for arty moves. But there's no denying the manic energy coursing through songs like "Keys to the Kingdom," "War" and "Mark the Graves." -- Justin Farrar
Willie Nelson, Band of Brothers
On his first album of (mostly) new material in nearly two decades, 81-year-old Willie Nelson shows no signs of slowing. Nelson, who co-wrote eight of the 14 tracks with producer Buddy Cannon, hasn't lost his gift for writing songs that are sharp, biting and funny at just the right moments. On "I Thought I Left You," for example, he shatters the serious, she-left-me-type mood with, "You're like the whooping cough/ I've already had you/ So why don't you get lost." There's plenty more to love, but start with "Crazy Like Me," "The Git Go" (with Jamey Johnson) and "Wives and Girlfriends." -- Linda Ryan
Jennifer Lopez, A.K.A.
Although she claims, "This is not the girl you used to know," Jennifer Lopez is in typical dance-pop form throughout her eighth album. Brandishing state-of-the-art studio frippery and good taste in collaborators (Nas, Rick Ross and Iggy Azalea all drop by), J.Lo remains good-naturedly willing to give anything a shot, from the electropop synth of "First Love" to the ridiculously silly "I Luh Ya Papi" and the Lady Gaga-inspired "TENS." It's worth the price of admission just to hear Pitbull purr "you're booty-ful." -- Jason Gubbels
Mali Music, Mali Is
Kortney Pollard has billed this as a mainstream R&B record, but Mali Is as spiritually minded as his earlier work. He loves in Christian terms when he sings, "You hold the light" on "Fight for You." He has a keen social conscience, too. "Do you know who you are? Royalty," he says of his black brothers and sisters, before mourning how "Johnny and Donna" are torn apart by an unexpected pregnancy without judging their actions. "I'm just one of those old people God's got a hold on," he sings on "I Believe." If rebranding himself brings him the wider audience he deserves, then so be it. -- Mosi Reeves