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by The Concordian November 1, 2011
Justice – Audio, Video, Disco (Because Music; 2011) 

Justice, otherwise known simply as †, finally released their highly anticipated full-length sophomore album and it’s at least two-thirds true to its title. The French electronic duo have masterfully created another narrative record to follow up their immensely popular debut album †. “Horsepower” opens the album and sets you up for the ultimate and eventual climax with the final title track, “Audio, Video, Disco.” For anyone who avoids electronic music, Justice provides a musical, vocal, and instrumental production to get you whistling a different tune. Their semblance to classic Daft Punk in “Ohio” and “On’n’on” reminds listeners that not all electronic music has to be bass-thumping, rave-inducing mash-ups, but rather can be chill, inspiring, and soothing, suitable for strolling around the park (not on ecstasy). Utilizing woodwinds, strings, and real drums, Justice has undoubtedly hit all the right notes.

Trial track: “Helix”

Rating: 9.0/10 

– Allie Mason

Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials (Island Records; 2011)

It’s hard to imagine anything following their debut album, Lungs (2009), could even compare but Florence and the Machine’s second studio album, Ceremonials, blows any doubt out of the water. While Ceremonials stays true to its roots, it’s also darker, louder and more mysterious. Florence’s distinct vocals pull you in with tracks like “What The Water Gave Me,” which will leave listeners with goose bumps. The 12-track album is engaging and it features heavy bass and incredible drum work without ever stealing the limelight from Florence’s voice. Although the music is still ‘flowy,’ it encroaches on a dark territory, but the band makes it work. The subtly powerful “Heartlines” will remind fans of tracks like “Rabbit Heart,” while enigmatic “Spectrum” puts the entire album’s undertones in perspective. It’s vivid, it’s fun and above all, it’s uniquely Florence and the Machine.

Trial track: “Heartlines”

Rating: 9.0/10

– Kalina Laframboise

Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (RCA; 2011)

Kelly Clarkson has come a long way from American Idol almost 10 years ago. Her fifth studio album promises a maturity that was once absent from her songs, and her powerful vocals are far more evident than ever before. Most of her songs give the impression of inspiration by personal struggle, mixed in with the expected element of love and loss. Her sound is reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield and P!nk, but with her own angrier, rawer edge. It strays a little from a typical Kelly Clarkson album, but is true enough to her roots to please her fans. She sells strength, self-confidence, and overcoming pain with songs like “Einstein” and “Breaking Your Own Heart.” The album introduces a more soulful and country edge, but is still predominantly pop. She makes it very clear that whoever broke her heart was the one who lost, not her. She’s long since moved on.

Trial track: “The War is Over”

Rating: 6.5/10

– Erica Commisso

Retro review

Michael Jackson – Bad (Epic; 1987)

Just for a moment, forget about the drugged up Michael Jackson dying after years of weirdness. Forget about his crazy plastic surgery and him dangling a baby off a balcony. Go back to 1987 when MJ was hip and listen to Bad, one of the coolest albums ever.  MJ’s last collaboration with Quincy Jones came out two years after “Thriller,” the highest- selling album of all time, and was to be the last truly relevant thing that Jackson did. The album is littered with the cool, edgy Jackson that made him an icon. Title track “Bad,” “Dirty Diana,” “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Man in the Mirror” all topped the Billboard charts, but even those great tracks cannot compare with the coolest song of them all: “Smooth Criminal.” Note to DJs: MJ has more than one song, so can you stop only playing “Billie Jean” and try a few tracks from Bad.

Trial track: “Smooth Criminal”

– Daniel J. Rowe

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