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The Listening Room: nine inch nails, John Legend and more...
nine inch nails
At the start of "Hesitation Marks," Trent Reznor laments that "I am just a copy of a copy/Everything I say has come before." Perhaps so, but Reznor hasn't said it, at least under the nine inch nails moniker, in seven years. And rest assured that Reznor's work during the hiatus, primarily with film soundtracks ("Social Media," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), made an impact on and, in fact, refreshed his sonic blueprint for nine in nails. The 14 tracks here still have plenty of the moody, hand-wringing murk that's his stock in trade for nin, but there's a new kind of open spaciousness that lets the songs breathe as they build, many to lengths of five minutes or more -- a not-so-fragile counterpart, if you will, to the 1999 nin breakthrough "The Fragile." "come back haunted" and "satellite" reference vintage disco conventions, while "i would for you," "copy of a" and the sci-fi flavored "running" are driven by rolling techno polyrhythms. "all time low" is slinky, dirty funk, and "everything" is an explosion of buoyant pop-rock energy that nicely complements the trancey ambience of "find my way" and "disappointed." Reznor's corps of helpers this time includes guitarists Adrian Belew and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, bassist Pino Palladino from The Who and production associate Atticus Ross, an all-star cast that helps nine inch nails return as something that sounds simultaneously familiar and strikingly fresh.
John Legend, "Love in the Future" (G.O.O.D./Columbia):***
Love songs have certainly been part of John Legend's ouvre since the Ohio native and onetime Kanye West hook man stepped out on his own nine years ago, but they've never sounded quite like this. Legend is in love -- engaged, even, to model Chrissy Telgen -- and the bonhomme is all over his fifth album's 16 tracks. There's also a stripped-down simplicity to this set; songs such as "Caught Up," "Hold on Longer," "Asylum" and the single "Who Do We Think We Are" (with a guest rap by Rick Ross) manage to achieve a lush ambience with relatively minimal instrumentation. And "All of Me," with just Legend's voice and piano, ranks as a defining career highlight.
New & Noteworthy:
Tamar Braxton, "Love & War" (Epic): The youngest sister of fellow singer Toni Braxton returns with her first solo album in a whopping 13 years.
Neko Case, "The Rose Things Get..." (Anti-): The first new solo album in four years from the acclaimed singer, songwriter and more bands than most people can readily count.
William Close & the Earth Harh Collective, "Behind the Veil" (??): The adventurous "America's Got Talent" finalist covers songs by U2, The Who and Beethoven on his latest release.
Raheem DeVaughn, "A Place Called Loveland" (Mass Appeal): The R&B singer's fourth album features production and songwriting collaborations with Ne-Yo, Dre King, Mario Winans and many others.
Elephant Revival, "These Changing Skies" (Evolving): The Colorado Americana group traveled to Washington state to record its third album at the legendary Bear Creek Studio.
Glasvegas, "Later...When the TV Turns to Static" (Go Wow/BMG): Frontman James Allan wrote and produced the entirety of the alt.rock quartet's third album.
Ariana Grande, "Yours Truly" (Republic): The actress-singer's debut album sports guest appearances by Detroit rapper Big Sean, Mac Miller, MIKA and The Wanted's Nathan Sykes.
Jaheim, "Appreciation Day" (Atlantic): The 35-year-old singer-rapper promises that "Age Ain't a Factor" on his first album in three years.
Mack Avenue Superband, "Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival -- 2012" (Mack Ave.): Gary Burton, Kevin Eubanks, Sean Jones and more are featured on this concert set recorded in the label's home town.
Craig Morgan, "The Journey (Livin' Hits)" (Black River): The country singer and TV host combines four new songs and eight previous hits on his latest release.
Natalia Kills, "Trouble" (Cherrytree/Kon Live/Interscope): The British singer-actress gets angsty on her sophomore release.
North Mississippi Allstars, "World Boogie is Coming" (Songs of the South): The typically exceptional Delta rock trio is joined by Robert Plant, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Lightnin' Malcolm and more on its seventh studio album.
Okkervil River, "The Silver Gymnasium" (ATO): The Texas roots rockers move to a new label, Dave Matthews' ATO, for their seventh studio album.
Over The Rhine, "Meet Me at the Edge of the World" (Great Speckled Dog): The Americana duo from Ohio recorded this two-disc, 19-track opus at their Nowhere Farm home with Rochester Adams alumnus Joe Henry producing.
Pepper, "Pepper" (Law): The first new album in four years from the California reggae-rock group.
Ed Roland & the Sweet Tea Project, "Devils `n Darlins" (429): The Collective Soul frontman launches a side project that has a broader and more rootsy range than his "day job."
Serena Ryder, "Harmony" (Capitol): The Canadian songstress moved her latest album forward from a planned October release thanks to the success of its first single, "Stompa."
Janis Siegel, "Night Songs" (Palmetto): The Manhattan Transfer member takes on songs by Randy Newman, Janelle Monae, Antonio Carlos Jobim and others on her first solo album in seven years.
Stereophonics, "Graffiti on the Train" (Stylus): The Welsh rockers' eight studio album is the sawn song for drummer Javier Weyler, who left the band after it was recorded.
Twiztid, "A New Nightmare" (139th & Broadway): The Detroit rap duo's guest-filled new album is its first since leaving ICP's Psychopathic camp last year.
Various Artists, "Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven" (Vanguard): Ben Harper, Jackson Browne, Ron Sexsmith and more participate in this benefit album for the musician's aid charity.
Vista Chino, "Peace" (Napalm): The first outing by the group of stoner rock known as Kyuss Lives! until legalities intervened.
From The Vaults: Jefferson Starship, "Live in Central Park NYC..." (Real Gone); Rod Stewart, "Rarities" (Mercury/UMe)
Soundtracks: Philip Glass, et al, "Visitors" (Orange Mountain Music); Various Artists, "Songs From Scandal: Music For Gladiators" (Stax)
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