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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: One Direction, Justin Bieber, Jeff Lynne's ELO, Kurt Cobain and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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One Direction

"Made in the A.M."

(Syco/Columbia)

Grade: B+

The unswayingly devoted fans of this British boy band will be heartened by the conclusion of its fifth album, as One Direction guys sing in unison that "This is not the end...We can live forever!" "Made in the A.M." is, of course, the album that will precede 1D's panic-inducing decision to go on a hiatus next year that some consider code for a break-up. If that proves to be the case, however, it's going out on a good note. 1D's first album as a quartet loaded with neatly crafted pop that manages to avoid the pre-fab sheen of many of its peers and predecessors and even retains a bit of spirited quirk -- for instance the bouncy "Olivia," which sounds like it could have come out of the Kinks' canon during the late 60s or early 70s. The opening "Hey Angel" has an anthemic surge not dissimilar to the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony, while the tempo-shifting "End of the Day" comes off like modern cabaret and "Never Enough" is a brassy blast of good-time soul-pop. Save for a couple of stumbles -- the cloying "I Want To Write You a Song" and "Love You, Goodbye," whose one-more-for-the-road sentiment gets a little too R. Kelly on us -- "Made in the A.M." is likable even for those who don't want to like 1D just on principle. There are enough break-up songs here to read plenty of hints into where the group might be headed, but it at least lives up to the lyrical sentiment that "at least we could end it right."

New & Noteworthy:

Justin Bieber, "Purpose" (Def Jam): The Biebs has made his mea culpas for bad behavior and is back with his fourth album, an edgier pop affair that features collaborations with Travis $cott, Halsey, Skrillex, Diplo and Detroit rapper Big Sean, as well as a co-write with Ed Sheeran on one track.

Boots, "Aquaria" (Columbia): The first full-length artist album from Jordy Asher, whose production and writing credits include projects for Beyonce, Run The Jewels, FKA twigs and more.

Kurt Cobain, "Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings" (UMe): It won't make you put away your copy of Nirvana's "Nevermind," but this companion to the documentary of the same name is a fascinating look at the late Cobain's creative process -- including a surprising comedy routine.

Il Divo, "Amor & Pasion" (Syco/Columbia): The youthful, classically trained trio's seventh album focuses on Latin sounds from Spain, Cuba and South America, including a new treatment of the "Song of Joy" segment from Beethoven's ninth symphony.

Jeff Lynne's ELO, "Alone in the Universe" (Big Trilby/Columbia): The first ELO album in 14 years is made by one-man-orchestra Lynne, who hasn't lost his touch for either songcraft or studio technique.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, "Letters From the Labyrinth" (Republic); The Wizards of Winter, "The Magic of Winter" (self-released): A double dose of orchestra rock. "Labyrinth" is TSO's first non-rock opera release and features Lzzy Hale on a bonus reprise of "Forget About the Blame," while the Wizards is comprised of some TSO alumni staying in their former group's holiday music lane.

Also Out: A Great Big World, "When the Morning Comes" (Epic); Brian Jonestown Masscre, "Mini Album Thingy Wingy" (A Recordings); Alessia Cara, "Know It All" (Def Jam); Casting Crowns, "Live Worship Experience" (Reunion); Coil, "Wrong Eye" (Threshhold); Fiction Plane, "Mondo Lumina" (Rhyme & Reason); Flying Colors, "Second Flight: Live at the Z7" (Music Theories/Mascot); Kirk Franklin, "Losing My Religion" (RCA); Rachel Garniez, "Who's Counting" (StorySound); Girlschool, "Guilty As Sin" (UDR); Jonny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express, "Shye Ben Tour" (Nonesuch); Natalie Grant, "Be One" (Curb); Hunter Hayes, "The 21 Project" (Atlantic Nashville); Intronaut, "Direction of Last Things" (Century Media); Chris Isaak, "First Comes the Night" (Vanguard); Jeezy, "Church in These Streets" (Def Jam); Kutless, "Surrender" (Bec); Nils Lofgren, "UK2015 Face the Music Tour" (Cattle Track Road); Logic and *, "The Incredible True Story" (Def Jam); Eddie Manion, "Nightlife" (self-released); Brad Mehldau, "10 Years Solo Live" (Nonesuch); Mutemath, "Vitals" (Wojtek); The Nth Power, "Abundance" (BOC); Panda Bear, "Crosswords" (Domino); The Piano Guys, "Live!" (Portrait/Sony); Ed Sheeran, "X Wembley Edition" (Atlantic); Squeeze, "Cradle to the Grave" (Caroline); Hailee Steinfeld, "Haiz" (Republic); These Machines Are Winning, "Architect of Decay" (Idol); Ty Dolla $ign, "Free TC" (Atlantic); Wainwright Sisters, "Songs in the Dark" (Pias America); Chris Young, "I'm Comin' Over" (RCA/Sony Nashville);

From The Vaults, A Tribe Called Quest, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm -- 25th Anniversary Edition" (Legacy); Guns N' Roses, "New York New York" (Gossip); Elvis Presley, "If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra" (RCA/Legacy); "Neil Young, "Bluenote Cafe -- Live 1988" (Warner Bros.); Frank Zappa, "Puttin' on the Ritz" (Goldfish)

New Holiday Albums: Band of Merrymakers, "Welcome To Our Christmas Party" (Portrait/Sony Masterworks); Ariana Grande, "Christmas Kisses" (Republic); Kylie Minogue, "Kylie Christmas" (Warner Bros.); Train, "Christmas in Tahoe" (Sunken Forest); Amira Willghagen, "Merry Christmas" (Sony Masterworks)



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