McGraw broadens sound on new album
"Two Lanes Of Freedom"
Veteran country star Tim McGraw resolutely refers to independence and the highway in the title of his new album, "Two Lanes Of Freedom," his first since leaving Curb Records, his label for two decades. The title cut flaunts that freedom by employing world-music instruments, harmonies and rhythms to communicate just how creatively liberated he feels.
But McGraw‘s always pushed at the boundaries of country music. Here he balances experimental arrangements with hat tips to contemporary country music -- the hit "Truck Yeah" follows the current trend of matching rural signifiers with pounding rock, while "One Of Those Nights" nicely weaves in slice-of-life sentiments, a common McGraw theme.
Elsewhere, he succeeds at broadening his sound with hip-hop, bluegrass and piano pop. He also bridges the generations on "Highway Don’t Care," a duet with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban that says even freedom needs an anchor in true love.
(AP)Eels cheer up on ‘Wonderful, Glorious’
Fans of the Eels will be surprised to know that the band‘s frontman, Mark "E" Everett, seems to have been lifted from his melancholy -- a sentiment that has inspired the band’s previous material. Even the title of the Eels‘ 10th record, "Wonderful, Glorious," oozes optimism. The album’s opener exudes funk and sex appeal, thanks to E‘s unique vocals. The song "Peach Blossom" is melodically interesting, with a pounding, rhythmical drum and angry guitar.
"On the Ropes" does hark back to the indie rockers’ original sad sound with lyrics like: "I‘m not knocked out, but I’m on the ropes." It‘s reminiscent of moments on the band’s "Electro-Shock Blues" (1998) and "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" (2005) albums. While "Wonderful, Glorious" is interesting and good, it doesn‘t match up to the Eels’ previous work. We prefer E‘s tortured soul.
(AP)Avant has R&B goodie with 7th album
"Face the Music"
Avant‘s seventh album arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day: It‘s full of ballads and seductive tracks that highlight the R&B performer’s singing and songwriting skills.
Avant doesn‘t break any barriers vocally on "Face the Music," but he does bring on a freshness that always makes him worth listening to. That’s evident on the album opener, "Toast to Love," and the midtempo "80 in a 30," which displays the Avant we know and love.
"You and I," featuring KeKe Wyatt, sees the awesome twosome throwing down again, adding to their previous collaborations like the classic "My First Love" and "Nothing in This World."
Avant does stretch out of his comfort zone slightly on "No," opting for a more poplike sound, and it works. "Face the Music" isn‘t perfect, but it’s an R&B goodie.