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by The Concordian February 21, 2012

Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom (Hear Music/MPL; 2012)

Die-hard Beatles and Wings fans beware: Paul McCartney’s latest musical offering, a compilation of shameless syrupy love songs, will likely make you cringe.
With one unknown cover after another (plus two hit-or-miss original songs), listening to the unfortunately named Kisses on the Bottom can be embarrassing: like when your really cool uncle begins to show his age by wearing Bermuda shorts and charming waitresses with terrible jokes.
The album is undeniably jazzy as fuck, with its tinkling piano and plucky cello, but the tracks are repetitive and blend into one another like ambient music at a coffee shop ―which figures considering that the album was released by Starbucks-owned record label Hear Music.
Still, it’s hard to stay mad at Sir Paul when he’s shamelessly crooning ridiculous love songs in his iconic, if a little tired-sounding, voice.

Rating: 5.0/10

Trial track: “My Valentine”

– Alyssa Tremblay

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp (Jagjaguwar; 2012)

On her third album, Van Etten dazzles with her contagious dose of folk and alt-country, complete with hauntingly personal lyrics about loneliness, trust and isolation. Tramp’s finely arranged melodies and harmonies has Van Etten finally proving herself as one of the most unique and remarkable singer-songwriters in music today.
The album includes beautiful and accomplished tracks such as “Give Out” and “Kevin’s,” as well as the melancholic “Joke or a Lie”—a fitting ending. The album’s single, “Serpents,” proves that Van Etten can mesmerize on a more upbeat and rock-driven scale.
Some of her best work is on “All I Can,” where Van Etten’s powerful and soothing voice reaches out for attention and leaves a sorrowful impression that is equally pleasant and gorgeous. This is Van Etten’s best work by far with guests Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Zach Condon (Beirut) and Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak).

Rating: 8.0/10

Trial track: “All I Can”

– Alex Giardini

Aretha Franklin – Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998 (Legacy; 2012)

The latest Aretha Franklin compilation album’s aim is to chronicle the best of the songstress’ career during her years with record label Arista (1980-1998). As such, the really, really great Aretha songs (“Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think”) aren’t on here. Instead, listeners are treated to a bevy of slow and mid-tempo ballads from what some consider to be the second surge in the soul singer’s long career, which has spanned seven decades. I can’t say that Knew You Were Waiting really excludes any of Franklin’s hits from the ‘80s and ‘90s: “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” and “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” all made the cut. So did duets with George Michael (the title song “I Knew You Were Waiting”), Elton John, Whitney Houston and Eurythmics. Knew You Were Waiting is great, but for a more inclusive best of Aretha, look elsewhere.

Trial track: “Freeway of Love”

Rating: 8.0/10

– Chris Hanna

Bleeding Through – The Great Fire (Rise Records; 2012)

Metalcore giants Bleeding Through have released a new album entitled The Great Fire and quite frankly, nothing much has changed. Their loyal fan base might disagree, but their formula is all too familiar. There are some upsides to this record; the guitar riffs are a lot more technical than usual and there is more emphasis on the keyboards—which served as a component that separated the band from others in the genre. The album is a lot darker in terms of sound, borrowing elements from black metal and even hints of goth. There are a couple of catchy tracks that will grab the attention of listeners and could appeal to more of a mainstream crowd, but apart from that it is really difficult to differentiate the tracks from one another. Nothing really stands out. Every breakdown and two-step part is beyond repetitive and the album becomes boring fast.

Rating: 5.0/10

Trial track: “Goodbye to Death”

– Alex Giardini

Of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks (Polyvinyl Records; 2012)

Of Montreal (a.k.a Kevin Barnes and many session musicians) has put out its eleventh studio album, entitled Paralytic Stalks.
Polyvinyl Records’ site says that the album “is a stimulating array of densely packed ideas.”
That’s for certain. Instead of focusing on what elements highlight in a song, each part bleeds into each. Each component competes for the listener’s attention, instead of complementing each other. It is as if of Montreal somehow just discovered the power of digital audio effects, and proceeded to place them on every instrument and vocal in the recording.
The result is a discombobulated mess that was, at times, frustrating to listen to. At certain points, however, there are glimmers of pleasing songwriting. Barnes’ falsetto even brings back fond memories of the Bee Gees.
The lyrics are described as dark and introspective. Perhaps the artist should use that disparaging approach, not only in his lyrics, but in how he presents his music.

Rating 3.5/10

Trial track: “Malefic Dowery”

– A.J. Cordeiro

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