New Release Sampler, 7/8/14
Another week with plenty of new releases to check out. Fans of sultry soul will want to check out the oh-so-smooth Leela James. Her Fall For You album is a heady slice of powerful, alluring soul. Speaking of alluring, fanciful siren Sia also drops her latest album this week. Beat-tastic contemporary pop offering 1000 Forms of Fear is set off by Sia's distinctive vocals. Meanwhile, Magic Man's Before the Waves and Bright Light Bright Light's Life Is Easy should appeal to fans of early '90s Euro dance pop (think Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, etc.). And for more retro-leaning action, head straight to Beautiful Goodbye, Richard Marx's brand-new album. If you're more of a rock fan, you'll want to check out Judas Priest's Redeemer of Souls, the band's 17th album. And for those whose taste runs even heavier, we've got Ashes to Ashes from the Salt Lake City band Chelsea Grin. We've also got new singles from Counting Crows, The Gaslight Anthem, Broods, Death From Above 1979 and Florida Georgia Line, and a live cut from Jennifer Nettles. There's plenty more where these came from --- just hit play, and be sure to check out our reviews of the top five new albums, below.
Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear
After a four-year break, Sia continues to embrace pop sheen with enthusiasm, ready to swing from whatever chandelier you've got. Yet her heartbreak anthems carry plenty of adult gravity: "Chandelier" itself details alcoholism's fallout. Longtime fans may be disappointed that she's ironed out some of her weirder flourishes, but Sia's brand of pop remains quirky, whether trading verses with The Weeknd on glitch-hop track "Elastic Heart" or swaggering through garage rocker "Hostage." Even the eerie blond bob on the cover bespeaks her intent: stylish as ever, and growing more iconic each time out. -- Jason Gubbels
Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls
The leather lords' first album since 2008 assumes size matters. It's an hour long, and its deluxe version adds 20 more minutes: an Alice Cooper imitation, a Bic lighter ballad, some after-midnight raunch. The rhythm section and Rob Halford's pipes aren't always up to the task. But "March of the Damned" makes for passable doom, "Cold Blooded" sports a whirlwind guitar solo, superhero anthem "Metalizer" features banshee shrieks, "Crossfire" swaggers well, and "Secrets of the Dead" counts as reptilian zombie goth. Starting it all off: "Dragonaut," possibly about a dragon who also is an astronaut! -- Chuck Eddy
Leela James, Fall For You
This is another solid collection from a singer whose husky, authoritative voice seems to hail from an earlier soul era. However, Fall For You isn't as audaciously inventive as her Etta James tribute from 2012. While these songs are terrific on their own, including lead single "Say That" with Anthony Hamilton, together they blend into a long neo-soul jam session. Other highlights: "So Good" has an emphatic funky drummer backbone, "Give It" rolls along a blaxploitation groove, and "Who's Gonna Love You More" sounds like the second coming of Angela Winbush. -- Mosi Reeves
DJ Dodger Stadium, Friend of Mine
The name DJ Dodger Stadium may sound hokey, but Samo Sound Boy and Jerome LOL are dead serious when it comes to their dance music. Their native Los Angeles may be their primary inspiration, but their beats come from everywhere and nowhere at once, betraying the influence of Chicago house, Baltimore club, U.K. bass and even Kompakt's German techno. Soulful vocal samples are stretched like taffy over pumping machine beats; in its wild colors and fanciful proportions, it's a vision of disco as Willy Wonka might have designed it. -- Philip Sherburne
Bright Light Bright Light, Life Is Easy
Welsh-born Rod Thomas snagged Sir Elton John for a guest turn on this batch of lightly bubbling synth-pop, and the pairing works. Amid wall-to-wall Casios and hi-hat slither, Rod wishes lovers "good luck being lonely" over the barest traces of progressive house beats. There's more than a hint of the Pet Shop Boys lurking inside these nu-disco tracks, but even "Lust for Life" has a touchy-feely vibe. Meanwhile, the Elton duet "I Wish We Were Leaving" mines a melody reminiscent of "God Only Knows," while calling the whole thing off on the kindest of terms: "One day you'll make somebody so happy." -- J.G.