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The Listening Room: Christina Aguilera, Green Day and more...
Things have not been so beautiful for Christina Aguilera during the past three years. Her two 2010 projects -- the "Bionic" album and "Burlesque" film -- both bombed, and she divorced from Jordan Bratman. On the more positive flip side, "The Voice" provided a fresh popularity surge, so "Lotus" arrives as an opportunity to put her multi-platinum career back on track -- if she can again deliver the goods. For the most part, she does; the 13-track set teams Aguilera with hot contemporary collaborators such as Alex da Kid, Pillay, Shellback and the seemingly ageless Max Martin, but for all its cutting-edge sonics "Lotus" still manages to showcase Aguilera's greatest asset -- a voice that's still big and abundantly divaesque but has matured to a point where emotion stands on equal footing with technique, which has not always been the case. Aguilera, who co-wrote seven of the songs, has a few chips on her shoulder here but mostly strikes a defiant and forward-looking stance, declaring on the opening, M83-sampling "Lotus Intro" that "this is the beginning" and assuring us that "I found my second wind/I found my second skin" on "Army of Me." She displays the vocal force to rise above the electronic underpinnings of "Your Body," "Let There Be Love" and "Make the World Move" -- which features fellow "The Voice" judge Cee-Lo Green -- while "Red Hot Kinda Love" is polyrhythmic, jungle-flavored fun. "Cease Fire" and "Circles" are hot messes that Aguilera saves with her performance, and she gets her emotive torch on for the likes of "Blank Page," "Best of Me" and "Just a Fool," the latter a duet with another "Voice" campadre, Blake Shelton (No Adam here? Hmmm....). "Lotus" is the most fierce and focus we've heard Aguilera sound in years, and while we certainly wouldn't wish more ill upon her, it certainly helped fuel a kind of comeback this time out.
Green Day, "Dos!" (Reprise): ***
Given his current stint in rehab, it's a bit chilling to hear Billie Joe Armstrong sing that "the colder it gets you won't see me anymore" at the beginning of the second in Green Day's planned trilogy of albums. The current drama will surely send fans combing the lyrics on "Dos!" for indications of Armstrong's issues, but they won't find much. Like September's "Uno!," this is a mostly good-time affair wtih a few dark tinges and a garage-flavored pop sensibility that references the Stooges in "Makeout Party" and is so brutally straightforward in "F*** Time" that it might make R. Kelly blush. Rapper Lady Cobra adds a little slink to the reggae track "Nightlife," while "Wow! That's Loud" offers a bit of playful fashion commentary and the somber, voice-and-guitar "Amy" pays tribute to the late Ms. Winehouse. Three albums in four months still seems a bit ambitious, but "Dos!" indicates Green Day is drawing from an abundance of worthwhile ideas.
New & Noteworthy:
Travis Barker & Yelawolf, "Psycho White" (LaSalle/Famous Stars and Straps): The blink-182 drummer and Alabama rapper join forces on this five song EP, with help from Barker's Transplants mates Tim Armstrong of RAncid and Skinhead Rob Aston.
Susan Boyle, "Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From the Stage" (Syco/Columbia): The British singer's fourth album focuses on a theatrical repertoire, including duets with Michael Crawford and Donny Osmond.
Clinic, "Free Reign" (Solid Gold): The seventh album from the Liverpool rock group follows the 2011 EP "Ladies Night."
Crystal Castles, "III" (Fiction/Universal Republic): The Toronto electronic troupe has already released three singles from its third album, including the latest, "Affection."
Anthony David, "Love Out Loud" (eOne): The Atlanta-born R&B singer-songwriter delivers his fourth studio album.
Lana Del Ray, "Paradise" (Interscope): The British singer worked with hitmaking producers Rick Rubin and Rick Nowels on her third EP.
deftones, "Koi No Yokan" (Reprise): The Sacramento headbangers' seventh album is its second with bassist Sergio Vega sitting in for the disabled Chi Cheng, still recovering from a near-fatal 2008 auto accident.
Departed, "Adventus" (Underground Sound): The debut album from the new band led by former Cross Canadian Ragweed frontman Cody Canada.
Disciple, "O God Save Us All" (Fair Trade Services): The ninth album by the Christian rock group from Tennessee.
Brian Eno, "Lux" (WArp): The ambient music innovator's latest set features four lengthy pieces clocking in at more than 76 minutes.
Peter Frampton, "FCA 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton" (Eagle Rock): Frampton revisits his most famous album ("Frampton Comes Alive") and more on this three-CD, DVD and Blu-ray collection.
Guided By Voices, "Bears For Lunch" (self-released): The Dayton indie rock troupe is as prolific as ever, jamming 19 songs onto its 18th studio album.
How To Destroy Angels, "An Omen" (The Null Corporation/Columbia): The second EP from the industrial/electronic group fronted by nine inch nails' Trent Reznor.
Aaron Lewis, "The Road" (Stroudavarious): The Staind frontman's first full-length country album follows the success of his 2011 single "Country Boy."
Stephen Lynch, "Lion" (W.A.R.?): The third album from the actor/comedian/musician is a double set that combines live and studio recordings.
Machine Head, "Machine F***ing Head Live" (Roadrunner): The Oakland, Calif., metal band's second concert album was recorded at various tops during its most recent world tour.
Madness, "Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da" (eOne): The British ska/New Wave group's 10th studio album features a cover by "Sgt. Pepper's" artist Sir Peter Blake.
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, "Buddy and Jim" (New West): A summit meeting between two of the most prolific figures from the Americana scene. Enjoyment is guaranteed.
One Direction, "Take Me Home" (Syco/Columbia): The mega-selling British pop quintet keeps the catchy froth on high for its sophomore album.
Graham Parker & the Rumour, "Three Chords Good" (Primary Wave): One of the best British bands of the late 70s and early 80s reunites for the first time in 31 years, delivering a dozen welcome new tracks.
Elvis Presley, "Prince From Another Planet" (RCA/Legacy): This two-CD and DVD box set celebrates the 40th anniversary of The King's pair of June 1972 shows at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Soundgarden, "King Animal" (Seven Four Entertainment/Republic): The Seattle quartet's sixth album is its first in 16 years. It has, as the song says, "Been Away Too Long."
Various Artists, "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2" (Atlantic): The latest musical companion in the "Twilight" series includes songs from Green Day, Passion Pit, Feist, Ellie Goulding and more.
The Weeknd, [cq] "Trilogy" (XO/Universal Republic): The Toronto singer-rapper remixes songs from three of his mixtapes and adds a trio of new tracks for his first full-length release.
New Holiday Albums: Percy Faith, "Complete Music of Christmas" (Real Gone); Various Artists, "This Christmas" (UMe)
From The Vaults: Eric Clapton, "Slowhand (35th Anniversary Edition)" (Polydor/UMe); Kelly Clarkson, "Greatest Hits -- Chapter One" (RCA); Marvin Gaye, "Trouble Man: Expanded Edition" (Motown/UMe); Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You: The Best of" (Arista); Jethro Tull, "Thick As a Brick: 40th Anniversary Edition" (EMI); Carrie Newcomer, "Kindred Spirits: A Collection" (Rounder)
Soundtracks: Alexandre Despiat, "Rise of the Guardians" (Varese Sarabande; Ramin Djawadi, "Person of Interest" (Varese Sarabande)
New Music Videos: Doobie Brothers, "Let the Music Play" (Eagle Rock); Peter Frampton, "FCA 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton" (Eagle Rock); Paul McCartney, "Live Kisses" (Eagle Rock); Various Artists, "Musicares Tribute to Barbra Streisand" (Shout! Factory)
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