July Audio Reviews

 

By Robbie Daw & Stephen Sears

 

 

Our Audio section has moved online—and it’s more interactive than ever! Stream music, watch videos, plus get the ever-excellent expert opinions from our musical mavens on the newest releases. What’s spinning right now? We've got reviews on the new releases from Sara Bareilles, Pet Shop Boys, Cody Simpson and more.

 

PET SHOP BOYS

Electric (x2)

5 stars

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s one album you absolutely need to acquire in order to get your pulse racing this summer, and this is it. Following 2012’s reflective Elysium — a record that focused on rich instrumentation and the UK duo’s own thoughts on aging in the music biz — pop gods Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have done a full 180 and are back on the dancefloor, with producer Stuart Price (Madonna, The Killers) in the passenger seat. Electric has the Boys crafting mind-blowing, addictive pop gems like “Thursday” and “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct,” while also serving up the strictly four-on-the-floor bangers “Axis,” “Fluorescent” and “Shouting In the Evening.” For the most part, the album’s tracks are arranged in alphabetical order, and things wind down with the peak-hour rave throwback “Vocal.” On the track, Tennant warmly informs us, “I like the people, I like the song / this is my kind of music, they play it all night long.” Our thoughts exactly, Neil. Whether you’re a diehard Pethead who’s been waiting for another Very-like masterpiece from the Pet Shop Boys or simply a fan of good pop, Electric is a must-have. — RD 

 

 

SARA BAREILLES

The Blessed Unrest (Epic)

3 stars

 

 

 

 

For most folks, summer is best fitted with upbeat music that lets us revel in the season’s sunny glow. But damn that notion, says Sara Bareilles — she of past hits “Love Song” and “King Of Anything.” On her fourth album, the California gurl dials down the tempo a few notches and gives us one piano lament (“1000 Times”) after another (“December”). This isn’t a bad thing, and there do happen to be a couple “up” moments, particularly with slightly-electro number “Eden” and hanclappy first single “Brave.” But, c’mon — lighten up, Sara. It’s July! — RD 

 

 

FRANKMUSIK

Between (VDI USA Inc.)

4 stars

 

 

 

 

Frankmusik has lived to tell. After a long stint in California and a second album that shed the charm of his much-loved 2009 debut, Vince Frank returned to England and reclaimed his mojo. Recording Between on his own budget, to the beat of his own drums — literal and metaphorical — the results puts him back in the game. The soaring chorus of "Did Love?" deserves to be on every car stereo this summer, while “How Do We Know?” is a gorgeous heartbreaker. Pop music with frenetic energy, passion and a dose of self-reflection…welcome back, Vince. — SS 

 

 

CODY SIMPSON

Surfer’s Paradise (Atlantic)

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Everyone’s favorite Aussie tween heartthrob Cody Simpson has gotten more muscular and quite hunkier since he swung onto the pop scene three years ago in a bid to catch the run-off from Bieber mania. But what of the music? This eight-track mini album surfs through jangly guitar pop (“La Da Dee”), dance-leaning radio candy (“Pretty Brown Eyes”) and even some reggae-lite moments (“No Ceiling”). Cody’s shelf-life might be up at any point, but if it’s disposable himbo pop you’re after, you could do worse than dive into Simpson’s cove. — RD 

 

 

​SKYLAR GREY

Don’t Look Down (Interscope)

2.5 stars

 

 

 

 

This chanteuse made a splashy debut as a songwriter a few years back, penning hits for no less than Eminem, Rihanna, Diddy and Dr. Dre. And partnering up with golden-fingered London producer Alex da Kid should have been a slam-dunk for her own solo career. Alas, Skylar has thrown at least four singles against the wall — none of which succeeded in sticking. The problem is this: from “Final Warning” to “Wear Me Out” to the Eminem-assisted “C’mon Let Me Ride,” we never get a sense of who the all-over-the-place Grey really is. Best hang behind the scenes, doll. — RD