New Release Sampler, 6/24/14
Welcome to the official start of summer! We've got plenty of new music for you to check out this week, starting with Joe, whose Bridges is a cool slice of contemporary R&B and boasts guest stars Kelly Rowland and 50 Cent. Also out is While (1<2) from the enigmatic Deadmau5, and Ed Sheeran's new minimalist, acoustic effort, x. If you're jonesing to rock out, then hit play on Mastodon's Once More 'Round the Sun or go a little tamer with Phish's 12th studio album, Fuego. Meanwhile, indie rock fans should go straight to A Sunny Day in Glasgow's Sea When Absent and Jad Fair and Danielson's Solid Gold Heart. We also have brand new tunes from Jason Mraz, Kenny Chesney, Tom Petty and Lee Ann Womack. Hit play to get caught up on the latest new releases, and see below for reviews of our top five must-hear albums.
Ed Sheeran, x
Though singer-songwriters have been playing with funk and R&B grooves since the '70s (Joni Mitchell and John Martyn are but two key examples), Ed Sheeran -- especially on his sophomore effort, x -- is gung-ho for this brand of experimentation in ways that are unique to him. The multifaceted album finds him shifting effortlessly from Damien Rice-inspired folk ("One," "Tenerife Sea") to dance-pop jams "Sing" and "Nina," both of which would fit snugly into a club set that featured Bruno Mars and OneRepublic. Chalk up another success for this young and supremely confident artist. -- Justin Farrar
Deadmau5, While (1<2)
This is Deadmau5's fifth album, but the cantankerous producer has said it's the first one he deems a cohesive long-player. Who knows where the two remixes of Trent Reznor fit into the equation, but it's true that this sprawling double-disc set -- two hours and 20 minutes long, plus two hour-long album mixes -- holds together exceptionally well, even given the Satie-inspired piano preludes. Deadmau5's lush, darkly lustrous productions have rarely sounded better, from moody progressive anthems like "Pets" and "Terrors in My Head" to the many glitched-out experiments and ambient interludes. -- Philip Sherburne
Mastodon, Once More 'Round the Sun
On their sixth album in a dozen years, these acclaimed Atlantans continue on the rock-radio-friendly path plowed on 2011's The Hunter. Shadowed by easy-to-take vocals floating through Queens of the Stone Age's neighborhood, their metal sounds less extreme than ever. Art-rock intros help "Asleep in the Deep" and lengthy closer "Diamond in the Witch House" unfurl (Neurosis' Scott Kelly assists the latter). Monster mash "Halloween" trick-or-treats almost like Voivod circa Angel Rat, and "Aunt Lisa" builds to Georgia punks The Coathangers shouting an Alice Cooper-ish cheerleader chant. -- Chuck Eddy
As befitting his modest name, Joe Thomas may barely register in the pop mainstream, but he's sustained an audience for over two decades and, with Bridges, 11 albums. Like so many others in this post-Pharrell season, he dabbles with a disco vibe on "Take It to the House." A supple rhythm reminiscent of the S.O.S. Band guides him through "Love & Sex Pt. 2." He reunites with 50 Cent (remember their "Ride Wit U" hit?) for "Mary Jane," and coos playfully like an early Prince on "Love Sex Hollywood." These songs are memorable detours from Joe's no-frills R&B. -- Mosi Reeves
How to Dress Well, What Is This Heart?
Tom Krell has always done things his own way, like using crackling lo-fi production to produce a cappella '90s style R&B over loops and textures created from his own voice or shifting gears for a shuffling Boyz II Men-style pop song. His third album is his most conventional record yet, from the palm-muted '80s pop of "Repeat Pleasure" and "Precious Love" to the acoustic-laden opener "2 Years On." Most reminiscent of old times is the ballad "Pour Cyril," with its taffy-pulled strings and trumpets straight out of a military funeral. It all fits smoothly inside the current sound of the times. -- Dan Weiss