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The Listening Room: Rihanna, Nickelback and more...
"Talk That Talk"
What's missing from Rihanna's sixth album, and third in three years, is a sense of drama. It doesn't have the up-and-coming fuss of "A Girl Like Me" and "Good Girl Gone Bad," the post-Chris Brown assault curiosity of "Rated R" or the momentum her Eminem collaboration ("Love the Way You Lie") gave last year's "Loud." "Talk That Talk," then, comes out after a couple years of big tours and, like "Loud," finds the Barbadian singer celebrating love but also getting a little down and dirty -- with an emphasis on the down part, if you know what we mean. But those latter tracks ("Cockiness (Love It)," the interlude "Birthday Cake") are also the album's slightest moments, though "Watch n' Learn's" synthesizer jabs and vocal weaves dance playfully around their explicit subjects, and Jay-Z's typically charismatic guest appearance on the title track provides a foil for Rihanna's acquiescent filly schtick. But she's even better dipping into the Caribbean stylings of the opening "You Da One" and the trancey, four-on the-floor thump of "Where Have You Been," as well as the house-style sonics of "We Found Love" and the soulful clatter of "Drunk on Love." "We All Want Love" brings a full-on, anthemic pop-rock richness to the set, as does "Farewell" -- although it's hard to swallow some of that tune's soft-hearted sentimentality from the same mouth that was, well, otherwise occupied on previous tracks. Ultimately "Talk That Talk" is as carefully crafted and shrewdly designed as its predecessors, and given how eventful her career has been so far a new Rihanna album unaccompanied by sensationalism is actually a bit refreshing.
Nickelback, "Here And Now" (Roadrunner): **1/2
Fifty to 75,000 people might not have wanted Nickelback to play during halftime of the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving Day game, but 50 million fans who have bought copies of the Canadian quartet's previous six albums speak a bit louder. Like those sets, "Here and Now" offers more of the meat-and-potatoes brand of rock that's the group's stock in trade, mixing the melodic heaviness of "Gotta Get Some," "Midnight Queen" and "Everything I Want to Do" with doses of party rock ("Bottoms Up"), social consciousness ("When We Stand Together") and sentimental tenderness ("Lullaby," "Trying Not to Love You," "Holding Onto Heaven"). Nickelback's not reinventing any wheels, nor is it trying to, and it's clearly not wanting for ears that like it just that way.
New & Noteworthy:
Mary J. Blige, "My LIfe II...The Journey Continues (Act 1)" (Matriarch/Geffen): The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul keeps her crown on with this guest-filled (Beyonce, Drake, Nass, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross) sequel to 1994's triple-platinum "My Life."
Kate Bush, "50 Words For Snow" (Epitaph): The British songstress' first album of new material in six years includes guest appearances by Elton John and British writer/broadcaster Stephen Fry.
Joe Cocker, "Hard Knocks" (429): The veteran singer teams up with producer Matt Serletic (matchbox twenty, Santana) for nine originals and a cover of the Dixie Chicks' "I Hope."
Common, "The Dreamer, The Believer" (Think Common/Warner Bros.): The conscious rapper and actor is joined by Nas, John Legend and Maya Angelou on his first new album in three years.
Chris Cornell, "Songbook" (UMe): The Soundgarden/Audioslave singer documents his solo acoustic tour with tunes from throughout his career and covers of Led Zeppelin and John Lennon songs.
Daughtry, "Break the Spell" (19/RCA): The third album by the "American Idol" finalist's group includes collaborations with behind-the-scenes icons from both rock (Howard Benson, Marti Frederiksen) and country (Brett James).
Death Cab For Cutie, "Keys and Codes: Remix EP" (Atlantic): The Portland modern rockers offer up seven new versions of songs from their latest album, "Keys and Codes."
James Durbin, "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster" (Wind-Up): The "American Idol" finalist worked with members of Motley Crue, Sixx A.M. and Hardcore Superstar on his hard-rocking debut album.
Hollywood Undead, "American Tragedy Redux" (A&M/Octone): Andrew WK, Korn's Jonathan Davis, KMFDM and others try their hand at remixing the songs from the California rap-rock group's latest album.
Michael Jackson, "Immortal" (Epic): The music from Cique du Soleil's "Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour" show includes the "Immortal Megamix" medley of favorites such as "Billie Jean" and "Black Or White."
Kidz in the Hall, "Occasion" (Duck Down Music): The fourth studio album from the Chicago hip-hop duo.
Lady Gaga, "Born This Way: The Remix"; "Born This Way: The Collection" (both Steamline/Kon Live/Interscope): The Lady's sophomore album lives on in these two sets, with remixes on the former by Zedd, Goldfrapp, Foster the People and others the latter gathering those along with the original album and her concert video from New York's Madison Square Garden.
Adam Lambert, "Beg For Mercy" (Colwel Platinum Entertainment): A sampling of the "American Idol" runner-up's earlier days for those who want to hear what he sounded like before the fame.
James McCartney, "The Complete EP Collection" (Engine Company): A compilation of the two EPs, plus bonus tracks, from the son of Paul McCartney, who co-produced and played on them.
Rhett Miller, "The Interpreter: Live at Largo" (Maximum Sunshine): The Old 97's frontman takes the covers route on his first solo live album, joined on a couple of tracks by Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago.
Mobb Deep, "Black Cocaine" (Infamous): The New York duo's first project since rapper Prodigy's release from prison is a five-song EP -- with Nas and Bounty Killer guesting -- to whet appetites for a full-length in 2012.
Willie Nelson, "Remember Me, Vol. 1" (R&J): The Texas icon kicks off a interpretive series, covering songs by Merle Haggard, GEorge Jones, Johnny Cash, Rosemary Clooney and more.
Willie Nile, "The Innocent Ones" (River House): The rock singer-songwriter from Buffalo brings his latest release out at home after causing a stir with it in overseas markets.
Riot, "Immortal Soul" (Steamhammer/SPV): The first new album in five years from the New York hard rock troupe.
Michael W. Smith, "Glory" (Reunion): The second all-instrumental album from the Christian singer-songwriter, following 2000's "Freedom."
Taylor Swift, "Speak Now World Tour: Live" (Big Machine): A CD/DVD combo recorded during the country-pop singer's stadium-filling world tour this year.
Vain, "Enough Rope"
Wishbone Ash, "Elegant Stealth" (ZXY): The veteran British rockers get help from Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airy and Irish fiddler Pat McManus on their latest release.
Yelawolf, "Radioactive" (DGC/Shady/Interscope): The Alabama rapper makes his debut for Eminem's Shady Records label with KId Rock leading a guest list that also includes Lil Jon, Fefe Dobson, Killer Mike and more.
From The Vaults: Lone Star, "Firing on All Six" (Rock Candy); Rolling Stones, "Some Girls: Deluxe Edition," "Some Girls: Super Deluxe Edition" (both Republic.UMe); Rush, "Sector 1," "Sector 2," "Sector 3" (all Island/Mercury); Ty Segall, "Singles 2007-10" (Goner); Bob Seger, "Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets" (Hideout/Capitol); Irma Thomas, "Soul Queen of New Orleans" (Snapper); Wayman Tisdale, "The Wayman Tisdale Story" (Rendezvous Music/Mack Ave.); Various Artists, "Songs for the Jewish-American Jet-Set: The Tikva Records Story 1950-1973" (Idelsohn Society); Voivod, "To the Death 84" (Alternative Tentacle); Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, "Collector's Edition Box Set" (Proper American)
Soundtracks: "Cirque du Soleil, "Iris" (Cirque du Soleil); Howard Shore, "Hugo" (Howe); Various Artists, "Breakin' " (Get On Down); Various Artists, "The Muppets" (Walt Disney)
New Holiday Albums: Various Artists, "N-Coded Music Presents Holiday Jazz" (N-Coded)
New Music DVDs: The Rolling Stones, "Some Girls Live in Texas 1978" (Eagle Rock); Talking Heads, "Chronology" (Eagle Rock)
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