A few surprise duds, but Minogue’s 12th is mostly bangin’
by Gillian Mahoney
Kiss Me Once
In case you’re unclear about the theme of Kylie Minogue’s new album, she spells it out in three song titles: “Sexy Love”, “Sexercize” and “Les Sex”. Hey, more power to the 45-year-old pop star for throwing down and showing the young ’uns how to titillate an audience. After all, this Aussie icon was burning up TV screens in the “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” video back when Miley Cyrus was carrying a lunch box.
So –– how is album number 12? As you can imagine, many bigwig songwriters were recruited and they (mostly) deliver some trendy, fun tunes. On the dubstep influenced “Sexercise”, Kylie commands her suitor to “beat all your best times” and warns that he’ll “be sore tomorrow”. With its wuub-wuub bass line and workout metaphors, think of it as a hornier update of Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical”. With “Les Sex”, Kylie gives us an ode to hookups (“we can call it fleeting”) over gurgling synths and punchy beats. The best Kylie music is like drinking a mojito: it’s light, fizzy and goes down easy.
Shockingly, the lamest track on the album is “I Was Gonna Cancel”, helmed by superstar producer Pharrell Williams. This is clearly not his A-list material, but rather a half-baked idea he threw together. The Stevie Wonder-esque Clavinet noodling feels random and out of place. The stark vocal production does our gal no favours either, drawing attention to the thin quality of her pipes. Then there’s the schmaltzy ballad “Beautiful” featuring Enrique Iglesias (what is this, 1999?), which is thankfully buried near the end of the record.
There are some skip-able moments here, but as always, Kylie comes through with a handful of club bangers to crank up.
From the silvery Bride of Frankenstein hairdo she’s currently sporting to her idiosyncratic songwriting, Annie Clark has never been one to shoot for mainstream acceptance. She’s always trusted her musical instincts and if people care to listen, that’s cool. While her fourth album includes many of the familiar St. Vincent touches –– the awesomely wigged-out guitar lines, for one –– it’s also her most accessible. The beats are stronger, the mood’s lighter and the songs aren’t as jam-packed with instrumentation as on previous records. Sure, the lyrics are cryptic as ever, but Annie makes you feel the emotion even when you don’t fully grasp the meaning. The new music exudes confidence and the visuals reflect that. On the album cover, St. Vincent poses atop a pink throne, ready to be our high priestess of rocking the fuck out. /Gillian Mahoney
Tokyo Police Club
Forcefield makes me long for the shoulder-length hair I sported at 21. Tokyo Police Club’s latest release is whip-your-hair-around, jump-all-over-the-bedroom, pour vodka-into-your-Slurpee music. Lead singer David Monk can sing about misery or claim that he may “want to look into the dark corners”, but the darker sentiments are wrapped in aggressively sweet (and pleasingly loud) guitar pop with strong, hooky melodies. Some of the songs suffer a bit from blandness (your attention may wander during “Gonna Be Ready” and “Beaches”), but when the guitars grow some fuzz and the background vocals start wooh-woohing, it’s power pop bliss. I want these guys to play at my funeral and force everyone to kick the chairs around. So you know, wear comfortable shoes to the event. /Aidan Morgan
The Belle Brigade
There’s no escape when this L.A. brother/sister duo dip into crazy thick earnestness. On “Likely to Use Something”, the levels of seriousness are overwhelming, like a return to the late ’90s pop of Natalie Imbruglia or Shawn Mullins. Barbara and Ethan Gruska provide counterpoints, though. “Be Like Him” has the lines “I wanna be your president/I wanna sign away your debt with the stroke of my pen”, which got an unexpected “Ha!” out of me.
Lyrics and tone might be questionable on occasion, but their folk-pop style is spot-on. There are echoes of eccentric Swedish pop dude Jens Lekman in places, and the raw folk of Jenny Lewis and Josh Ritter at others. You might even say the record’s occasionally Jenny Lew-ish, if pseudo-portmanteaus are your thing. The drumming is a real star, nimble and imaginative, without sounding like some jerk-off is hitting every tiny cymbal in his kit for the heck of it. /James Brotheridge