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International Music from the First Half of December- Reviewed

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Miley Cyrus/ Plastic Hearts, Pop, RCA Records-Sony

The daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus, singer-actress Miley Cyrus has been regularly releasing albums since her 2007 debut. With a blend of country-pop, hip-hop, and radio-friendly rock, she’s rendered a good mix of styles. The latest Miley album Plastic Hearts thus moves between these genres smoothly.

Though the opening track WTF Do I Know is a sad attempt, she picks up-tempo from the title track which comes next.

“I just wanna keep feeling but I feel nothing all night long”, she sings.

 

 

Other attractions are the first single Midnight Sky, the smoothly-built Angels Like You, and the powerfully sung High. Her collaborations with Dua Lipa (on Prisoner) and Billy Idol (Night Crawling‘) are crisp, though the one with Joan Jett (Bad Karma) is wayward.

Though she doesn’t quite reach the vocal standards of Debbie Harry or Dolores O’Riordan, her covers of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass and the Cranberries’ Zombie are good sing-along material. Miley is planning an album of Metallica covers next. Should that take her career the extra mile?

 

Rating: 7/ 10

 

 

The War On Drugs/ Live Drugs, Neo-Psychedelia,  Super High Quality

Four studio albums and a couple of EPs old, American band The War On Drugs is finally out with a live album. The oddly-titled Live Drugs uses many songs from the last two albums Lost In The Dream and A Deeper Understanding, but add their own concert twists.

The group’s sound has been classified as either indie-rock or neo-psychedelia, and a highlight is that it’s a sextet with prominent use of keyboards and saxophone, besides the occasional harmonica. Vocalist-guitarist Adam Granduciel is the ideal frontman and strikes form from the first track An Ocean Among The Waves, which boasts of some incredible guitar work.

 

The songs are culled from different shows and include favourites like Pain and Strangest Thing, with its beautiful sax-backed opening. Thinking Of A Place is a perfect example of great songwriting, with its charming hook and wonderful twists and turns.

Buenos Aires Beach charms with its semi-spoken vocals and half-laugh. Robbie Bennett’s piano is the highlight of Eyes To The Wind. Through 10 songs spread over 75 minutes, The War On Drugs proves why they’re considered one of the more innovative American bands of the past decade.

 

Rating: 8/ 10

 

 

The Smashing Pumpkins/ Cyr, Synth-Pop-Rock, Sumerian Records

In the mid-1990s, with the albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, the Smashing Pumpkins were a name to reckon with in the then-exploding alternative rock space. Ego issues and the subsequent split hit them badly.

On their 11th studio outing Cyr, vocalist, guitarist, synth player and bandleader Billy Corgan works with old-time guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, besides guitarist Jeff Schroeder. However, the album is a letdown for three reasons.

 

One, they go in for a contemporary Synth-Pop sound. Nothing wrong with that except it isn’t their forte. Secondly, ten of the songs were already released as singles. Bad strategy. Finally, this has 20 songs, and though most are between three and four minutes, they lack variety and sound monotonous.

Individually, The Colour Of Love, Ramona, and The Hidden Sun sound good, with Corgan still retaining shades of the past. But as a set of songs, this bombs.

 

Rating: 4/ 10

 

 

Shaggy/ Christmas in The Islands, Reggae-Pop, Mr. Luva Luva Inc-BMG

For over 25 years, Jamaican-American star Shaggy has been at the forefront of the modern reggae-pop scene. Hits like Boombastic, In The Summertime, It Wasn’t Me and Angel still make it to party and club playlists

This year, Shaggy has put out a feel-good Christmas collection, with songs building up the festive holiday spirit. Helped by collaborations with a variety of artistes, he sings about holidays in Jamaica, sunny weather, blue skies, family outings, and rum ‘n’ lemonade cocktails.

 

 

“I don’t want an icy Christmas, I’ve had enough, The only ice I want to see must be in my cup”, sings guest Sanchez on the opening track No Icy Christmas.

Joining the celebrations over the next 14 tunes are singers Joss Stone, Richie Stephens, Rayvon, and the incredibly talented Jamila Falak, besides DJ Beenie Man and others.

While Holiday In Jamaica, Open Presents with Romain Virgo and a version of the traditional Have Yourself A Merry Christmas are the stand-out tracks, the entire album flows smoothly. Without singing his trademark line Mr. Luva Luva, Shaggy keeps the spirit high. Never mind if some of it sounds like a Jamaica tourism campaign.

 

Rating: 8/ 10

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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