A strong second record for Feist
Feist”The Reminder” (Cherry Tree/Interscope)Leslie Feist could have easily split her latest solo album into two EPs if she had wanted to group the songs by mood and feel.The Canadian singer divides her attention on “The Reminder” between eclectic indie-rock rave-ups of the sort she has performed with Toronto collective Broken Social Scene and tunes with a soulful, torchy pop bent. The former numbers are fun enough, jumbling together instruments and melodies, but the latter songs are where Feist truly shines.She sings with a stirring, sleepy voice, musing about romantic difficulties over subtle bass and acoustic guitar on the opening track, “So Sorry.” She sings the first verse of “Brandy Alexander” accompanied only by rhythmic finger snaps, until gentle piano chords, then subtle, low strings, help flesh out a dusky little melody that could have come straight from some vintage pop standard.
There’s an element of power to her vocals, too, which comes out when she sends her voice skyward. Feist builds on “I Feel It All” from a murmur to bold full-voice singing that glitters with the warmth of sunlight refracting through beach glass, and she belts out the verses without a trace of self-consciousness on “Past in Present” while a growling slide guitar fills in the spaces.She made the record over a mere two weeks, but nothing about these tunes feels rushed. It’s a deliberate album that never sounds over-thought, and it’s moving without even a hint of cliche. If only all reminders were this sweet. Hear excerpts from “The Reminder” at http://www.courant.com/music.- Eric R. Danton, L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service Miranda Lambert”Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Sony/BMG)
Miranda Lambert finished third on “Nashville Star” in 2003 but has become the biggest star to emerge from the show, thanks to her well-received 2005 debut disc. The 23-year-old Texan saddles up a fresh assortment of Southern rock-laced tunes on her follow-up, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” coloring their balance of catchy energy and slick production with healthy doses of small-town moxie.Lambert’s twangy vocals are harnessed to create welcoming ruggedness, whether she is melodically powering the smooth-edged anthem “Famous in a Small Town” or adding plucky texture to the breezy longing of “Desperation.” She branches out into throwback-style balladry to luxuriate in soft pedal steel guitar and rippling piano in “Love Letters” and handles light ironies in a springy cover of Gillian Welch’s “Dry Town,” but is too manicured to be sufficiently trashy for the title track’s needs.Lambert gets a writing credit on eight of 11 songs, and although she finds some niches to distinguish her wild side from the likes of Gretchen Wilson – the romp “Down,” for example – Lambert’s abandon is never quite reckless.- Thomas Kintner, L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service
Ne-Yo”Because of You” (Def Jam)It says something about the perpetual fascination with pretty white faces – and something more about the current state of black pop – that Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke are most often mentioned as pretenders to the abdicated-but-never-filled thrones of Michael Jackson and Prince. You can hardly call Ne-Yo invisible – a No. 1 debut, 2006’s “In My Own Words,” and the chart-topping hit “Irreplaceable” for Beyonce have certainly saved him from anonymity – yet his name rarely enters the debate.”In My Own Words,” with its old-fashioned melodies written by Ne-Yo himself, made it clear the former Shaffer Smith belonged in such discussions, and “Because of You” re-confirms it. It’s a little less immediate than the first album, but also takes Ne-Yo’s case where it belongs: to the dance floor. The title track and “Can We Chill” are textbook pre-weirdness Jacko, with their ebullient grooves.The ballads that dominate elsewhere are as effortless and well-crafted as before, though a clear standout like “So Sick” doesn’t present itself. Here’s hoping Ne-Yo hoards all his best songs for himself next time and delivers his own “Thriller” – which would be thrilling indeed.- Dan LeRoy, L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service