After launching their less-than-stellar album The Resistance in 2009, which sounded more like an electro-pop symphony mid-life crisis, I was beginning to fear Muse had lost their spark. That is, until the Grammy Award-winning British trio broke musical ground with the release of their sixth and most diverse studio album yet: The 2nd Law.
Muse frontman Matt Bellamy shows his sensitive side in “Follow Me” — his ode to fatherhood — which begins with the sonogram heartbeat of his unborn child, while bassist Chris Wolstenholme gives the most sincere performance as first-time lead vocalist in “Save Me” about his battle with alcoholism.
The 2nd Law incorporates a fresh blend of symphonic rock, synthetic pop, a twinge of Dubstep and a bigger emphasis on ’80s groove.
Although songs like “Madness” and “Explorers” are minimalistic in sound, Muse fans will be pleased to know that their beloved classic razor-sharp guitar riffs and grandiose vocals have resurfaced.
Trial track: “Supremacy”
“Stay here ‘til I feel whole again / I don’t know when” of “White Cedar” properly summarizes the incredibly dark moods reflected in The Mountain Goats’ sixteenth full-length album Transcendental Youth. The album references and places heavy emphasis on pain, as if he feels he deserves what’s coming to him.
Taking ownership of one’s own demise shows a maturity that we’ve come to expect from the band’s songwriter, John Darnielle. At the same time, you wouldn’t expect this album so late in the discography, which makes you ponder the album title Transcendental Youth. Darnielle takes us on a musical journey to another period of his life. The result is an incredibly strong show of the spiritual and emotional struggles we all deal with as we grow older.
Trial track: “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1”
Last month, Natasha Khan talked to music blog Stereogum about her new album. “I felt with this one it was a constant process of adding on and stripping away,” she said. “Really only leaving the essence of the best little bits of the things I was experiencing and the people I was hanging out and playing with.” Compared to the electro beats of Fur and Gold and the deep sounds of Two Suns, her new album is relatively stripped – but when you hear the ethereal vocals and resonating lyrics, there’s no denying it’s Bat for Lashes.
Haunted Man bears her trademark sounds – soft drums and violins (“All Your Gold”), songs named after people (the piano-driven “Laura” and stripped-down “Marilyn”) – but the restlessness and inklings of desperation that permeated her last albums are replaced by controlled, calm vocals and soft sounds that lend themselves to a sense of vulnerability she has seldom showed before. Whether you choose to listen to this one lying on your bedroom floor, or you want to add a new dimension to your metro ride, this is one haunting you won’t fear.
Trial track: “Marilyn”
Green Day’s ¡Uno! is the first in the band’s upcoming trilogy of albums to be released between September 2012 and January 2013. Those dreading another of Green Day’s political, punk-rock operas can breathe a sigh of relief. Lead vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong and company offer an array of 12 songs packed with upbeat pop-punk tunes fit for arena concerts and mosh pits.
A far cry from the old days of Dookie, this album mixes the old, fun, devil-may-care Green Day attitude from Nimrod and Warning with the vocals and guitar riffs of American Idiot. In songs like “Spend the Night” and “Fell For You”, Armstrong’s lyrics are drenched with nostalgia for youth and young love. In “Let Yourself Go” and “Loss of Control” he takes a stab at critics and haters. Say what you want about the “new” Green Day, but it’s admirable how such a seminal punk band continues to reach out to their fans.
Trial track: “Carpe Diem”