Quickspins – Megan Hilty, Cool Serbia, Dave Grohol & Friends

Megan Hilty – It Happens All The Time (Sony Masterworks; 2013)

You may have heard of her achievements on Broadway or NBC’s Golden Globe nominated series, Smash. With It Happens All The Time, Megan Hilty wants to expose her true self without any pretense, storyline, or character attached.

Don’t expect showtunes or standards, this is a contemporary pop album. Covering artists like Sara Bareilles, Bruno Mars and Damien Rice, as well as some original compositions, Hilty sounds more like watered-down Norah Jones or Dido rather than a Broadway star. The production and arrangement is too sanitized, stripping the songs of their rawness or originality. The only standout track is “Be A Man”, where some of her talent and passion is finally displayed.

Overall, Hilty needs to realize that conveying sentiments through pop songs is very different than portraying a character on stage. Stick to what you know.

Trial Track: “Be A Man”

Rating: 3/10

-Paul Traunero


Cool Serbia – Cool Serbia (Self-Produced; 2013)

Cool Serbia’s self-titled debut album leaves the listener in want of proper adjectives to describe their genre-defying sound. While roots in the surf-rock category are apparent, distortion and aggressive instrumentals distance it from the normally clean-cut style. Earworm rhythms and upbeat tempos appeal to a pop-loving crowd, sure to coax any audience (no matter how reluctant) into dance. To put it straight, if The Beach Boys and The Jesus and Mary Chain had a love child, they would name it Cool Serbia.

The sanguine track “Kill Someone” delivers hazy energy through its brilliantly méli-mélo instrumentals. In approaching music with such a do-what-feels-right attitude, Cool Serbia created a track-list full of diversity and creativity.

The Brooklyn-based trio boasts a strong foundation in the retro world while spicing it up with a plethora of progressive add-ons and the resulting catchy, mesmerizing sound proves it to be a recipe for success.

Trial Track: “Tear Me Up”

Rating: 8.5/10

-Victoria Kendrick


Dave Grohl & Friends – Sound City: Real to Reel (RCA; 2013)

With Sound City: Real to Reel, Dave Grohl delivers what is arguably this year’s best rock album.

Members from every rock band under the sun join forces to create pure rock heaven on this tribute album to one of the industry’s most legendary recording studios. Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Joshua Homme, and others tear the roof off the weathered Sound City Studios in L.A.

Pounding drums and shredding guitars weave their way through all 11 tracks with style and infectious rhythm.

On “Cut Me Some Slack”, rock god Paul McCartney and Nirvana members Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Dave Grohl deliver a killer track that seamlessly blends the raw energy of Helter Skelter and Territorial Pissings. If there were ever someone who could take Kurt’s place for a day it would be Sir Paul.

This album proves once and for all that rock ’n’ roll is still going strong.

Trial Track: “From Can to Can’t”

Rating 11/10

-Selina Gard


Devendra Banhart – Mala (Nonesuch; 2013)

Devendra Banhart is known for creating eclectic and quirky sounds and his latest album Mala is no exception. After a three-year hiatus from music, Banhart is back with 14 brand-spanking-new tracks.

Mala showcases Banhart’s signature haunting acoustic sound with subtle electronic glimpses here and there, exemplified perfectly in “Fur Hildegard von Bingen”, a track named after a medieval German feminist. Banhart’s first single, “Never Seen Such Good Things”, is light and catchy, reminiscent of the artist’s earlier work. Banhart stays true to his Venezuelan roots with Spanish songs like the ballad “Mi Negrita”, giving the album a familiar yet fresh feel.

Although Banhart has traded his signature wild, bushy beard for some slight stubble, Mala proves that the singer can venture off in new creative directions, all the while staying true to his folksy roots.

Trial track: “Never Seen Such Good Things”

Rating: 8.5/10

-Jessica Romera


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