New Release Sampler, 7/22/14
This week's new releases include the 10th album from conscious "Speak My Piece" and "Diamonds" rapper Common, as well as the final album from emo favorites Anberlin, who go out in a blaze of glory with tunes like "Stranger Ways" and "We Are Destroyer" on Lowborn. The Raveonettes' seventh album, Pe'ahi, finds the Danish fuzz-bubblegum duo in an unusually tropical and dancey mood, while boy-band/pop-punk hybrid 5 Seconds of Summer are arguably the story of the week, with smash hits like "She Looks So Perfect" and "Don't Stop" splitting the difference between One Direction and Paramore. Press play for more, and read below for our reviews of the top five must-hear new albums.
5 Seconds of Summer, 5 Seconds of Summer
Too many whoa-oh-ohs and not enough gabba-gabba-heys? Oh, you punk purist. Best not to think of these Australian cuties as anything other than a boy band who've calibrated their choruses to mime blink-182 riffage. Surrender to their gumdrop charms and you'll find insanely catchy melodies and plenty of teen poetry ("You look so good standing there/ In my American Apparel underwear"). And between tales of fake IDs and kissing at the stop signs, they drop a lament as timeless as The Beach Boys' "When I Grow Up to Be a Man": "I'll make my move when I get older," by which they mean 18. -- Jason Gubbels
Common, Nobody's Smiling
Common's Nobody's Smiling marks an improvement over The Dreamer, The Believer. This time, he's not overly anxious to reclaim his hip-hop bona fides; in fact, he's subtle to a fault with these vignettes seemingly inspired by Chicago's intractable murder epidemic. No I.D.'s beats are admirably cryptic, too, especially on the title track and "No Fear." "You created me from dust, that's why I did dirt," raps Common as he asks for the keys to God's "Kingdom." Save for "Real" and the nostalgic "Rewind That," there are no grandstanding speeches here, but listeners should get the point. -- Mosi Reeves
La Roux, Trouble in Paradise
Although some worried Elly Jackson might not rebound after former collaborator Ben Langmaid left on strained terms, those concerns seem unwarranted -- her roller-rink synth-pop anthems are warmer than ever. Jackson's vocals avoid falsetto tendencies this time out, and sometimes bring to mind the goofy pleasures of club-rat-era Madonna. But the woman boasting the best hair in pop since Flock of Seagulls isn't all smiles: The behemoth synth riff of "Silent Partner" steamrolls through a seven-minute kiss-off to a certain former associate. "You're not a part of me/ All I need is silence" -- ouch. -- J.G.
Yes, Heaven & Earth
The 21st album of Yes' career, and the first to feature lead singer Jon Davison, Heaven & Earth finds the group scaling back their long-form compositions and instead focusing on well-crafted prog pop. Of course, this is Yes we're talking about; their idea of pop means eight-minute songs rather than 20-minute epics. Another key development is how several cuts, among them "Step Beyond" and "It Was All We Knew," revive the Beatles-esque touches unique to the band's earliest output. As for Davison, he sounds a lot like original frontman Jon Anderson -- maybe more angelic, if such a thing is possible. -- Justin Farrar
The Raveonettes, Pe'ahi
As you might have guessed, the title place is in Maui, a curious locale for The Raveonettes' longtime brand of candy-coated, fuzzed-up darkness. But the Danish duo's seventh album features plenty of guitar lines that set their echoing dream chords to a tropical flavor, and the early '90s-style boom-bap beats make Pe'ahi sound like their first legitimate attempt at a party record. Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo are as dimly catchy as ever, though the beats and blissed-out textures turns their retro nostalgia from '60s girl groups to The Go-Gos. Maybe vacation's all they ever wanted. -- Dan Weiss