In the Grace of Your Love is indie rock band The Rapture’s first album in five years. Opening with “Sail Away,” they prove that they haven’t lost their appreciation for catchy songs that make you get up and dance. But the band isn’t able to sustain the listener’s interest throughout the entire album, although they make a good attempt at experimenting with horns and choral background vocals, which is a nice touch. The songs’ arrangements and lyrics don’t effectively convey the themes of forgiveness and stability in love. This being their fourth album, it seems like The Rapture got too comfortable in their artistic formula. Their true fans will probably be pleased with this long-awaited album, but it’s obvious that this band was at its peak about 10 years ago.
Trial track: “Sail Away”
Hugh Laurie – Let Them Talk (Warner Bros; 2011)
It’s difficult to know what to expect from a TV star’s debut album, but House actor Hugh Laurie manages to deliver one hell of an emotional and unique take on New Orleans blues with Let Them Talk. The album’s 15 tracks include collaborations with well-known artists like Irma Thomas, Dr. John and Sir Tom Jones which help Laurie shine through as lead vocalist and pianist. The album consists of traditional blues songs, with Laurie giving each track its own twist that all music lovers can enjoy. Though Laurie is not the best vocalist to ever grace the music scene, his ability to capture an array of emotions is what makes the album worth listening to. The variety of instruments, from guitars to saxophones to mandolins, complement the vocals in a way that draws the audience in for the album’s entire 56 minutes.
Trial track: “Saint James Infirmary”
– Kalina Laframboise
The Drums – Portamento (Island; 2011)
On Portamento, The Drums’ second full-length in as many years, they pick up right where they left off from their debut album, albeit sometimes to the point of redundancy.
There are moments on the LP where the trio appear very much on top of their game, such as on the rather aptly-titled album closer “How it Ended.” Its upbeat instrumentals mesh with frontman Jonathan Pierce’s earnest vocals and melancholic lyrics over a failed relationship in a way that appeals to both the mainstream and the Pitchfork crowd. As the album progresses, however, the songs become harder and harder to distinguish from each other, with fast-paced rhythms and heavy use of reverb found in the guitars and vocals being key features of much of the album.
While Portamento’s bouncy, new wave-influenced instrumentation will likely hold initial fans’ interest, its overall lack of musical progression reveals The Drums as perhaps playing it a little too safe.
Trial track: “How it Ended”
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Columbia Records; 1998)
When it was released in 1998, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was certified platinum seven times in Canada and garnered Hill a then-record 10 Grammy Award nominations and five wins.
Translation: it was by no means a flop. Still, it was Hill’s only solo effort, and her only studio album. In the last decade, she has mostly retreated from the spotlight, only occasionally going on short tours.
Miseducation is a stellar R&B album. It’s also an amazing hip-hop album. Hill is able to seamlessly switch from one genre to another without ever sounding out of her element. “Lost Ones” shows off Hill’s slick and thoughtful rhymes, “Ex-Factor,” her soulful voice, and “Doo Wop (That Thing),” both.
Of course, followers of her career know that Hill could rap and sing. She was one-third of The Fugees, and starred in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
Hill and Miseducation’s influence reach far wider than anyone can say for sure. Even Kanye West quips on his song “Champion,” “Lauryn Hill said her heart was in Zion [the name of her first son], I wish her heart still was in rhymin’.”
Trial track: “To Zion”
– Chris Hanna