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The Listening Room: Sia, Ted Nugent and more...
"1000 Forms of Fear"
Sia Fuller identifies herself as "a basket filled with pain" on her sixth album, but it's actually more like a dumpster -- and an industrial-sized one at that. The aptly titled "1000 Forms of Fear" comes with a harrowing backstory; after the worldwide success of 2010's "We Are Born," Sia recoiled from stardom, numbing herself with drugs and alcohol and even planning suicide until a friend intervened, sending her into rehab. The Australian singer and songwriter was musically productive during this time, however; she wrote songs for Rihanna ("Diamonds"), Beyonce, Britney Spears, Flo Rida and David Guetta, among others, and her "Elastic Heart" (with Diplo and the Weeknd) was a single from "The Hunger Games -- Catching Fire" soundtrack. "1000 Forms of Fear," not surprisingly, reviews the painful past few years, digging with therapeutic resolve and unapologetic candor into insecurities and romantic turmoil, often with disturbingly violent images and metaphors. The music, much of it co-written with album producer Greg Kurstin, follows suit, flowing from dark electronic ambience to full-bodied anthemic choruses, with only occasional glimpses of hope and optimism; by the time Sia declares "I'll walk through fire to save my life," it's a welcome relief because we weren't exactly sure if that's where she was headed. "Burn the Pages' " shifting tempos are intriguingly experimental, while "Hostage" is the only real moment of poppy levity, though the lyrics are as dark and devoid of hope as anything else on the album. It's definitely uneasy listening, but there's musical gain in Sia's pain here.
Ted Nugent, "ShutUp&Jam!" (Frontiers) **1/2
At this juncture, forty-six years since "Journey to the Center of the Mind" and nearly 40 since his first solo album, with a new set of knees to boot, Ted Nugent could be phoning it in -- and some would say the Motor City Madman did on some of his 90s and 00s releases. But "ShutUp&Jam!," his first set of new tunes in seven years, hits the vintage Gonzo mark with tightened songwriting (light on but not devoid of political screeds) and, of course, plenty of fleet-fingered guitar heroics -- as well as cameos by Sammy Hagar ("She's Gone"), longtime Nugent singer Derek St. Holmes ("Everything Matters") and Detroit Wheels/Rockets drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek. Nugent stretches out on the punky (yes, punky) "Never Stop Believing," while the relative brevity he demonstrates on the rest of the album serves him well.
New & Noteworthy:
Bassnectar, "Noise Vs. Beauty" (Ingrooves): The 10th artist album from the California electronic artist features collaborations with Rye Rye, Seth Drake, Jantsen and others.
Blackberry Smoke, "Leave a Scar: Live in North Carolina" (self-released): A sweaty concert set that will leave you ready to catch these Atlanta Southern rockers next time they come through town.
Blackhawk, "Brothers of the Southland" (Loud & Proud): The country duo of Henry Paul and Dave Robbins are back in action with their first new release in 12 years.
Rick Braun, "Can You Feel It" (Artistry): The trumpeter continues to tread the lines between jazz, New Age and pop on his first new album in three years.
Chicago, "Now Chicago XXXVI" (Chicago/Frontier): The veteran group recorded its latest album remotely and while on tour, resulting in one of the most vintage sounding Chicago records in years.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "CSNY 1974" (Rhino): The singer-songwriter supergroup's legendary tour is chronicled on both a three-CD box set (with companion videos) and a single-disc collection, all of which beat any bootleg you've heard.
Dirty Heads, "Sound of Change" (Five Seven Music): The ska-rock group from California expands its sound for its third album, incorporating dance club and rap flavors for a more diverse collection.
Colt Ford, "Thanks For Listening" (Average Joe's): The country rapper rhymes around Keith Urban, Jerrod Niemann, Justin Moore, Lee Brice, Duck Dynasty`s Boss Hog and others on his fifth album.
Goatwhore, "Constricting Rage of the Merciless" (Metal Blade): The New Orleans black metal group is in characteristically brutal on its sixth studio album.
Steve Hackett, "Genesis Revisited: Live at the Royal Albert Hall" (InsideOut): The former Genesis guitarist revisits his 70s glory days on this concert set, preserved on both CD and DVD.
Leela James, "Fall For You" (J&T): The Los Angeles soul singer's fifth album includes a duet with Anthony Hamilton on the track "Say That."
Judas Priest, "Redeemer of Souls" (Epic): Rest assured that the Metal Gods have not turned into, oh, Mumford & Sons during the interim since 2008's "Nostradamus."
Richard Marx, "Beautiful Goodbye" (KLS): The veteran singer/songwriter embraces a sexier groove on his first new studio album in 10 years. You would too if you were married to Cynthia Rhodes.
The Mastersons, "Good Luck Charm" (New West): The sophomore outing from the husband-wife duo who do double duty in Steve Earle's Dukes.
Ministry, "Last Tangle in Paris..." (13th Planet/UDR Music): The industrial rock heroes are packing it in but leave us with one more brutal live CD/DVD set before they go.
John Mellencamp, "Performs Trouble No More Live at Town Hall" (UMe): The Indiana rocker reviews his last album along with some of his iconic favorites on this 15-track concert set.
David Olney, "When the Deal Goes Down" (Deadbeat): The Americana troubadour embraces witty humor and dark tragedy on his latest set of new songs.
Starset, "Transmissions" (Razor & Tie): The debut release from the Columbus, Ohio, modern rock group fronted by former Downplay singer Dustin Bates.
Dale Watson, "The Truckin' Sessions 3" and "The Truckin' Sessions Trilogy" (Red River): The Alabama roots rocker finishes his series paying tribute to the Americana traditions of Merle Haggard, Red Simpson et al.
Lewis Watson, "The Morning" (Warner Music): The 21-year-old British pop singer's first full-length album comes after five EPs and plenty of YouTube videos.
Wednesday 13, "Dead Meat Collection" "Undead Unplugged" (self-released): The shock rocker and Murderdolls frontman presents his music in demo and acoustic form, respectively.
Steve Wilson, "Cover Version" (Kscope): The Porcupine Tree leader mixes six originals with covers of songs by Prince, ABBA, the Cure and others.
From The Vaults: Dream Theater, "The Studio Albums 1992-2011" (Roadrunner); Steve Eearle, "Live in Nashville 1985" (Shout! Factory)
Soundtracks: Michael Giacchino, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (Sony Masterworks); Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott, "The Fault in Our Stars: Score From the Motion Picture" (Atlantic); Various Artists, "Love's Labour's Lost" (Ghostlight)
New Music DVDs: Linda Ronstadt, "Blue Bayou: Live 1977" (Laser Media)
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