January 20, 2020

Madonna – Madame X – Interscope

By Kristi Kates | July 13, 2019

Madonna has brought in a shortlist of collaborators (Maluma, Swae Lee, Quavo) to help bring her focus back into dance music. Fans will especially appreciate “Batuka” and “Medellin,” as Madge — by turns a secret agent, dancer, head of state, and housekeeper, among other things — autotunes her way through. The album doesn’t make a whole lot of tempo changes, so the beats get a little repetitious, but it’ll keep you dancing steadily throughout. **

Aurora – A Different Kind of Human Step II – Glassnote
Norwegian tune-stress Aurora returns with her third album, and she’s clearly decided to take a few steps away from her prior sound. The pseudo-concept album deals with social mores and ecology, from opener “The River,” with its Florence-Welsh-ish refrain and electro beats, to “Apple Tree,” with its sly hip-hop elements, and “In Bottles” with its choir-like choruses. The new approach works well — a solid way to showcase the self-assured singer’s quirky vocal inflections and turns of phrase. ***

Silversun Pickups – Widows Weeds – New Machine
One of the coolest things about SP is its willingness to stretch its sound with each and every album. The band never seems to get caught in the trap of sameness to hold its audience. And this album’s no exception, though it is a bit more downtempo than previous efforts. Opening with “Neon Wound,” the album winds confidently through punky lead single “It Doesn’t Matter Why” and the complex “Straw Man” to album closer “Simpatico,” which is exactly that for this is a likable set. ***

Of Monsters and Men – Fever Dream – Republic
Calling the album “playful and empowering,” the members of Monsters and Men are aiming high with their latest, prefacing it with comeback tune “Alligator,” a sharp and unpredictable indie-rock banger featuring singer Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir that’s half garage band, half poetry slam. The rest of the set stays on a similar road, with evocative song titles like “Stuck in Gravity,” “Soothsayer,” “Vulture Vulture,” and “Wild Roses” drawing the listener in to see what kind of melodies the band is going to conjure up next. ** ½


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