January 27, 2020

FourScore

By Kristi Kates | March 11, 2017

The Mavericks – Brand New Day – Mono Mundo
Countrified Tex–Mex outfit The Mavericks put on a slicker suit for this album, but while the more polished production might make fans initially suspicious, the refinement actually pulls the band’s songwriting into even better focus. Perhaps the giddiness of releasing this set on its own new record label helped too; either way, it’s a very good showcase of the band’s unique stomping sound, thick with an overstuffed crust of trumpets, vocal harmonies and more, and seasoned with the blend of Latin and country–western sounds this band knows so well. ***

Blondie – Pollinator – BMG
Perhaps Pollinator should have been called Party–inator, considering the gleaming lineup of standout guest stars on Blondie’s newest set. Of course you’ll hear Debbie Harry’s distinctive vocals along with her bandmates’ instrumental work, but you’ll also hear snippets from Sia, Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Charli XCX, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, The Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Dev Hynes. Whew. And then there are the songs – slices of ‘80s–era classic Blondie sounds deftly layered against modern production and uber–catchy melodies, most notably on “Fun,” “Best Day Ever” and “My Monster.”  ***

Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic – Verve
The title track prefaces Branch’s return to the music scene after being absent, album–wise, for the past 14 years, and she wisely chose a couple of strong collaborators – The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and Sia/Norah Jones cohort Gus Seyffert – to help her step back into her songs. The set’s first single, which is also the album’s title track, is more bluesy and soulful than Branch’s previous radio–friendly hits (“Breathe” and “Are You Happy Now?”); the rest of the tracklisting sticks nicely to this soul–pop lovelorn theme, from “Not a Love Song” to “Fault Line.” ** ½

Depeche Mode – Spirit – Columbia
Depeche Mode is already (probably correctly) anticipating a big fan response to its latest album and has set it up to be available in both digital and CD form as a standard 12–track set and a deluxe version with five additional remixes by the band. Producer James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco stepped in to change things up for the duration, and his outside influence shows in the more muscled feel of tunes like the direct first single “Where’s the Revolution?” and the dark “Poison Heart”; band members are still clad all in black, but the band seems to have discovered a new political purpose. ** ½

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