(Def Jam/SRP)
Rihanna’s new R&B album starts off slow, boring, and monotonous. It did not seem promising, and I quickly started losing hope. However, the songs are much better past the sixth track, starting with “Right Now.” The track features David Guetta, which does not hurt it in any way. Even the slow songs start to flesh out into more complex and beautiful constructions. It helps that parts of this album remind us that Rihanna actually has a decent voice; some of her recent hits haven’t exactly showcased it. Her attempt at reggae on the song “No Love Allowed” surprised me, and it turned out quite well. It’s one of my favorite tracks. The techno-tinged “Lost in Paradise” is another good one. But my favorite is “Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary,” because it is epic in both length and content. Slow and catchy wins this race.
Slum Party
Magic Scents
When I heard the Kansas City band Slum Party described as being like She & Him on hallucinogens, I absolutely had to check them out. They have a psychedelic edge, and the soft female vocals are paired with moody, almost angst-tinged, more alternative-styled male vocals. The contrast of the vocal styles is extreme, but overall, they pair oddly well. The atmospheric overtones dominate the hidden indie core of each track. My favorite song is “Women in Love,” which I could instantly imagine in a movie, right at the part when the drugs begin to kick in, the characters’ logic starts to fade, and the world begins to melt in ribbons of color all around them. Listen to it, and you’ll see what I mean. No excuses – it’s free on slumparty.bandcamp.com. Two other good songs are “Feathers on the Floor” and “Picture Show.”
Icona Pop
Iconic EP
(Big Beat Records)
The music from this synth-pop duo from Sweden is extremely catchy. The songs on this E.P. are heavy with pop, riddled with techno, and have a few R&B touches here and there. This new E.P. is so addictive because the techno beats are like heartbeats - deep and natural. It’s a nice contrast to the simple, yet well-done dual voices of the female singers. The vocals are actually the most distinguishing feature, because they have a bit of ’90s optimism. They remind me of Santigold, so fans of hers and people who enjoy techno should not waste a minute -- go check out Icona Pop. The best tracks on the E.P. are “Manners,” “Top Rated,” and my favorite, “Sun Goes Down.”
The 2nd Law
(Helium 3/Warner)
Muse is a supremely talented band. I’m not sure whether they set out to prove just how talented they are, because it sure seems like it with this one. It’s like they got drunk on the Beatles, took a hit of the Mars Volta’s power and summoned the raw creativity and experimentation of Queen. If your head isn’t spinning from that, then I think you can handle the sheer awesomeness that riddles this album. The song “Survival” was a jaw-dropper.. I’ll continue listening to this one on repeat in an attempt to steal some of Muse’s musical magic. The only negative I can think of is that the vast musical range they present in this album can make your brain spin inside of its protective dome. But don’t let that stop you. I mean it in the best possible way.

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