June 14Christina Aguilera, “Liberation”One of the queens of pop music has returned for her first album in six years. The inspiration behind the record is evident from the title, with Aguilera exploring and harnessing the waves of various female empowerment movements and political agitation into an album that, while somewhat low energy, does well to show her strengths as a vocalist and a songwriter. The majority of the record is heavy with pianos and strings, focusing on slow ballads rather than the bombastic pop songs or the slick with sex appeal style of her more popular work. And then we get tracks like “Accelerate,” with 2 Chainz and Ty Dollar $ign, and produced by Kanye West. Even with that combination, we get a subdued Christina who is content to be more vibe-y and sit in the groove of the beat.
Buddy Guy, “Blues is Alive and Well”Blues music has its fair share of prolific artists, but if we were to have a conversation about the greatest of the greats, Buddy Guy would certainly be in the running. “Blues Is Alive and Well” is the man’s 18th solo record, and he brings along some appearances from other blues royalty to sweeten the deal even further. Mick Jagger swaggers in his guest appearance on “You Did The Crime,” a nice, smooth slab of slow electric blues, while his band mate Keith Richards teams up with Buddy and Jeff Beck on the somehow even smoother ode, “Cognac.” The whole record is chock full of Buddy Guy’s signature storytelling style and cool electric blues, but the record is not without its somber and reflective moments. Fans of the style and of Buddy Guy himself won’t be disappointed with this record, but it also holds few surprises.
Mike Shinoda, “Post Traumatic”There is a lot looming over “Post Traumatic.” Following the tragic death of Chester Bennington last year, Bennington’s Linkin Park band mate Mike Shinoda has released a burst of new music, which was created during the time Shinoda spent in isolation after the frontman’s untimely passing. Shinoda is a musician known for being somewhat larger than life, but the first half of “Post Traumatic” is surprisingly restrained, and it almost feels like Shinoda was working through the stages of grief. About halfway through, the rapping starts to show itself again and a bit of the attitude of his older material returns. At that point, it starts to feel like Shinoda is working toward acceptance of the world as it is now. Overall, the record is very powerful, if a bit long-winded. The 16 tracks clock in at just under an hour, and the album did start to drag after a little while. After decades in the music business, it is weird to think of this as Mike Shinoda’s debut solo album, but he’s has certainly found the inspiration and the right time to release a record – one that is very clearly important to him.
Other new releases this week include Madball, Mayday Parade, Johnny Marr, a trilogy of remastered Tom Waits records, Rebelution, and more.