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International Music Releases From The First Half Of April 2021- Reviewed

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Demi Lovato/ Dancing With The Devil: The Art Of Starting Over, Pop, Island-Universal

On Melon Cake, one of the uptempo songs on Dancing With The Devil: The Art Of Starting Over, Demi Lovato sings, “There was a time I was living like a prisoner in my own mind”. The line is one of the many reflections of the album’s theme, involving a personal recovery story.

At 28, the American singer has gone through sexual abuse, drug addiction, romantic upheavals, hospitalisation and near-death moments. This album, a companion to her documentary Dancing With The Devil, talks of her past and present with frankness and blatant expression.

The songs vary from the high-pitched singing on the piano ballad Anyone to the foot-stomping dance vibe of That’s The Kind Of Lover I Am. Both are contrasting beauties. Dancing With The Devil and ICU describe her suffering, though the album’s second half goes into more optimistic moods of love and pansexuality, ending with the autobiographical Good Place.

Guest appearances by Ariana Grande and Noah Cyrus add variety. The only loophole is that at 57 minutes, the album stretches. Three songs less and it would have been just perfect.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Evanescence/ The Bitter Truth, Gothic metal, Columbia-Sony

Fronted by the popular Amy Lee, American hard rock band Evanescence shot to fame in 2003 with the album Fallen, featuring the songs Bring Me To Life and My Immortal. Their output has been rather slow thereafter, and The Bitter Truth is just their fifth full-length album.

With its Gothic metal undercurrent, not much has changed in sound and substance, and for that reason, there’s nothing new on offer. But within the formula, there are some tight songs, beginning with the third number The Game Is Over, with Amy’s trademark pipes and words that talk of hypocrisy.

Wasted On You, about being regretful after a failed relationship, is again trademark Evanescence. Use Your Voice is a strong call for justice and Far From Heaven is a refreshing change in tempo. However, the foray into electronic rock on Better Without You falls flat, with Amy singing in the old familiar style.

A consistent asset is Will Hunt’s drumming, which brims with energy. Despite the similarity with the band’s earlier repertoire, The Bitter Truth has its share of better moments.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Cheap Trick/ In Another World, Rock, Self-Released

Their sound hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, but American band Cheap Trick definitely retain the formula to keep fans happy. “Here comes the summer, the summer looks good on you”, they sing on the opening track The Summer Looks Good On You, following up with a barrage of guitars.

While this track was released as a single in 2018, there’s a lot of newer material. Vocalist Robin Zander and guitarist Rick Nielsen continue in the same rock vein on Quit Waking Me Up, but get into more anthemic mode on Another World, which expresses a desire for happiness, freedom and peace.

There’s a punk-rock feel on The Party, and the customary ballad on So It Goes, which has a clear Beatles influence. The band also does a take on John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth, giving it a Cheap Trick flavour. With its distinct arrangements, I’ll See You Again is a shift in mood.

A highlight is a coordination between lead and rhythm guitar. And with 13 songs in just over 45 minutes, this is an easy, breezy listen. Never mind if Cheap Trick uses the same old tricks.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Ryley Walker/ Course In Fable, Indie-rock, Husky Pants Records

American singer-songwriter Ryley Walker has released 10 albums over the past seven years, including a collection of Dave Matthews Band covers. He’s kept shifting his style, moving between psychedelia, progressive, blues-rock, indie-rock, modern jazz, folk and Americana.

Walker’s latest album Course In Fable sees him in a more progressive and experimental mood. While that’s a welcome approach, the songs are a blend of the innovative and the vague. It’s filled with surprises, though they don’t always work.

The picks are Pond Scum Ocean, with its clip-clop rhythms and sudden guitar bursts, and A Lenticular Slap, which falls more in the progressive rock mould. Rang Dizzy is a personal narrative on getting sober.

To be fair, the arrangements are first-rate with supple use of strings. What was needed was consistency. This may work for those with an eclectic taste, but for many, it could get highbrow.

Rating: 6/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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