music

Shines So Bright

It’s been two years since Bright Light Bright Light, also known as Rod Thomas, released his debut album Make Me Believe In Hope. In that time, the Welshman has moved to Brooklyn, recorded an album with pop collective Slow Knights (headed by Scissor Sisters’ Del Marquis), developed an indie following across the States and become friends with a certain pop music legend. We caught up with Rod in the weeks prior to the release of his sophomore album, Life Is Easy, and caught up on music, moving and Mr. Elton John.

You moved to New York after you finished your first album. Did your life there affect this new record?  
The point of moving was so that it did affect it. I wanted new surroundings and stimulus to provoke new ideas and points of view, and I really found that in New York… I met a great circle of musicians who I exchange with—we sing for each other, write with each other.

You’ve been bouncing between solo records and recording with [Instinct fave] Slow Knights. That group is amazing!  Is there another record happening?
Being part of a New York artist community really changed my life. For the first time ever as a musician I felt part of something, which I never found before. It’s a really uplifting and heartwarming thing to find. I love the fluidity of working in varying forms, numbers, guises … Yes there’s more coming from Slow Knights, we’ve been working on the second album. It’s definitely more like being in a party than when I do the solo shows, and for Slow Knights I’m not at the lead, so it’s a very new experience for me. I’ve co-written and produced Bridget Barkan (from Slow Knights) new single, which is out July 22. She’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met—a real star and one of the most wonderful people.

What can we expect from Life Is Easy? We've heard some ballads from it, but there are actually some great summer bangers like “Good Luck.”
It’s an album full of hope and warmer tones. Even on the “bangers” I think the sounds are warmer, like on “I Believe.” The album shares a little about the people I met, the people I lost, finding a home thousands of miles across water and falling in love with making music again. But it’s about real things—people I love, my family and my new family.

Your last single is a duet with this unknown artist named…Elton John. Did you take a deep breath and say "Reginald, will you sing on my album?"
We’ve been friends for many years now after I joined the management company he owns, Rocket, back in 2007. He called after he heard my debut album, and we became good friends after realizing we had a lot in common—music we loved, sense of humor, outlook on certain things—and we talked about doing something together, so I played him “I Wish We Were Leaving” and he really liked it, so I asked him to sing on it and he said yes! I don’t think I’ll ever get over that fact.

Aside from your own tunes, what are two great songs for the summer of 2014?
“You Don’t Know What To Do” by Mariah Carey is MY SONG OF THE SUMMER. I’m completely obsessed with it and I’m very, very happy to hear her so full of energy. The album is, I think, my favorite of hers, and this song is just fantastic. Also, “Cobbler” by Kelis, partly because of the line I love: “You’ve got this feeling like a holiday,” but partly because it’s party-esque, laid-back vibe really makes me feel like I’m around a barbeque with lots of friends enjoying long summer nights. I love the Food record and go running to it all the time, and this song makes me smile every time.

Last year, you appeared in a book called 100 Beards 100 Days, so it’s no secret you’re a lover of bearded men. But really sir, are you prepared for the inevitable cultural shift to a smooth face?
No. I don’t think it suits me!

Life Is Easy is released on July 8. Check brightlightx2.com for tour updates.  

(Photos by Alex Petch)

 

Heart It or Hate It: Kylie Minogue's "Into The Blue"

Gays across social media lost their minds today as news circulated that Kylie Minogue's highly anticipated new single, "Into The Blue," had leaked. And we found it!

The track marks Minogue's first single as a Roc Nation artist, and is a marked difference from last year's teaser track, the amped-up "Skirt." But don't take our word for it—what do you think of "Into The Blue"?! Pop perfection or pretty plain?

Click here and check out the track!

Heart It or Hate It: "Resurrection" by Stella Parton

Stella Parton, singer/songwriter and younger sister of country music superstar Dolly Parton, has released a new album of dance remixes to some of her past hits from the 60s and 70s as well as a few new tracks.

Parton says about the album:

"The concept for this CD came from a suggestion to remix some of my previous songs into dance mixes. I thought that would be fun and after listening to the first remix, I said it is like we are resurrecting my songs. That is where the name "Resurrection" came from and I am proud to have written eight of the ten songs. I threw in three new songs that have never been recorded and I hope you like them."

Preview Parton's new album "Resurrection" here, listen to her current single 'Trouble on the Line' below and tell us, heart it or hate it?

 

 

Images couresty of Stella Parton and stellaparton.com

 

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Will you buy Stella Parton's new album, Instincters?

Heart It or Hate It: Stream Celine Dion's Entire New Album "Loved Me Back To Life" (Audio)

We're just two days away from the release of the new album, Loved Me Back To Life, from multi-platinum-selling and five-time Grammy Award-winning musical maven, Celine Dion — and guess what Instincters? We've got it for you here first! 

You can pre-order the album (track list below) through CelineDion.comiTunes, and Amazon, but before you do that, stream it below and tell us, heart it or hate it?

 

 

Loved Me Back To Life track list:
1. Loved Me Back To Life
2. Somebody Loves Somebody
3. Incredible (duet with Ne-Yo)
4. Water And A Flame
5. Breakaway
6. Save Your Soul
7. Didn’t Know Love
8. Thank You
9. Overjoyed (duet with Stevie Wonder)
10. Thankful
11. At Seventeen
12. Always Be Your Girl
13. Unfinished Songs

 

October Audio Reviews: Diane Birch — In, Katy Perry —Out

By Robbie Daw & Stephen Sears

October Audio is here, Instincters, and 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 Diane Birch, Katy Perry, Donna Summer, St. Lucia and Cass McCombs.

 

DIANE BIRCH

Speak A Little Louder (S-Curve)

5 stars

Forget Katy, Gaga, Britney, Miley and all the other pop dames out there chucking out standard pop-porn fare; Diane Birch has the truly amazing album of Fall 2013 that you need to be tuning in to. It’s been over four years since the singer-songwriter’s debut Bible Belt first gained her a moderate amount of attention, but this follow-up, written during much emotional heartache (the songstress went through a breakup and dealt with the passing of her father) signifies that it was worth the wait. The title track starts things off on a hauntingly melodic, mid-tempo note before “Lighthouse” kicks things up a notch with galloping drums and a soaring chorus. Keep an ear out for the outstanding “Pretty In Pain,” a funky toe-tapper Birch wrote with disco legend Betty Wright. It’s followed by killer cuts like the handclap-filled, Stevie Nicks-esque “Love And War,” the new wave throwback “Frozen Over” and the heartbreaking tribute to the singer’s father, “It Plays On.” Buy this album, please. — RD

 

 

 

KATY PERRY

Prism (Capitol)

2.5 stars

Here’s the thing about Katy Perry’s third album Prism: she worked with several Swedes on the album, including Bloodshy and Klas Åhlund, and those are really the standout tracks here. (Some may dig the ballad "Double Rainbow," if that’s your thing.) One of the big songs that’ll get a lot of gays clutching their candy is "Walking On Air," which Perry did with Klas and sounds like an early-'90s house throwback. At a recent album listening session in New York, Katy said she wanted something that sounded like an old CeCe Peniston jam with this track — and it’s pretty marvelous. But overall, you get the sense that the choruses on Prism just don’t go anywhere like you really want them to. The song "This Is How We Do" was recorded in Stockholm with Bloodshy, and I kept hoping the chorus would just blow up. Mind you, it was a decent track, but by album number three, Katy should be knocking catchy vocal arrangements out of the park, and it just doesn’t seem to be happening this time around. Sorry, KatyCats. — RD

 

 

 

DONNA SUMMER

Love To Love You Donna (Verve)

3 stars

The thought behind this posthumous remix collection of the famed disco diva’s hits is to honor her biggest chart successes like “Love To Love You Baby,” “Hot Stuff” and “MacArthur Park,” while also introducing her tracks to the younger, more EDM-loving generation. The reinterpretations themselves are hit or miss for the most part. Duke Dumont’s take on “Dim All The Lights” incorporates little of Summer herself, while the Holy Ghost! Mix of “Working The Midnight Shift” takes a backing vocal track rather than the lead melody fans will recognize. Elsewhere, Afrojack offers up an adrenalized take on “I Feel Love” and Frankie Knuckles pairs with Eric Kupper for a retro-sounding house work-over of “Hot Stuff.” Curiosity seekers will no doubt be thrilled with the addition of “La Dolce Vita,” an unreleased track Summer recorded with longtime producer Giorio Moroder. If only there had been other such lost gems to populate this otherwise so-so compilation. — RD

 

 

 

ST. LUCIA

When The Night (Columbia)

4 stars

St. Lucia’s long awaited debut album thunders across the dance floor. Lush single “Elevate” is held aloft by monolithic synths, while “The Way You Remember Me” recalls a lost John Hughes soundtrack. Band leader Jean-Philip Grobler’s voice is right up front in that track’s polished mix of big drums, synths and — sigh — a sax solo. Early single “September” is a leaner disco machine with swoops of falsetto vocals and a sense of elegant urgency. Former choirboy Grobler delivers a collection of songs that mainline pure euphoria; this is music equally compelling beneath strobe lights or sunshine. — SS

 

 

 

CASS MCCOMBS

Big Wheel And Others (Domino)

4 stars

Cass McCombs records always sound best in the fall, and so here we are with the mid-October release of the California alt-rock poet’s seventh LP. With a run-time of nearly an hour-and-a-half, there are 19 (!) tracks to be found, three of which are snippets of dialog from ‘70s documentary Sean. It would be altogether bizarre stuff if McCombs wasn’t so deft at turning out completely amazing, off-the-wall rockers like “Big Wheel” and “There Can Only Be One,” or the somber, timeless sounding “Brighter!”, a collaboration with recently-deceased actress Karen Black, of all people. Cass has always proven himself to be a musical oddity you shouldn’t miss out on. Here’s another chance — a pretty great one, at that — for your introduction to his world. — RD

 

Heart It or Hate It: "Red Flag" By XELLE

The gals of XELLE (pronounced ex·elle) are on a mission! Their newest release “Red Flag” is a call-to-action, meant to inspire fans to stand up to people like Russian President Vladimir Putin (who this week, signed a new law placing restrictions on the discussion of homosexuality) and New Jersey governor Chris Christie (who is petitioning his state’s court to repeal their recent ruling allowing gay marriage).

“We want ‘Red Flag’ to be the theme song for a movement that helps change the world for the better,” say JC Cassis and Rony G, the dance floor divas who front XELLE.  

The ladies hope to start a movement encouraging everyone who believes in human rights to speak out about their support for LGBT equality in Russia and around the world by posting videos, pictures and social media updates with the hashtag #IRaiseARedFlag in order to show the global community that anti-LGBT sentiment, behavior and legislation will not be tolerated.

Will you join in the fight, Instincters?

Check out the video for "Red Flag" below and tell us — heart it or hate it?

 

 

Dance Diva Debby Holiday 'Dives' In Deep With Kickstarter Campaign

LGBT ally Debby Holiday ain't one of those sistah's who's afraid to get her hair wet, ladies and gentleladiesmen! Blood, sweat and tears, Mz. Holiday is pouring it all into raising the funds for her latest project titled Free2B — a double album of both rock and dance music — with a fresh new kickstarter campaign

Here's what Debby had to say about Free2B:

​If you know my music at all — there is often a common thread. Believe ... In ... You! Cuz baby, you are amazing just as you mutha-snuckin are! In your life, You should be Free To Be ... the beautiful, amazing, delicious, uniquely gifted YOU - you were born to be! Oh, yes - I will preach on it!

The best part? For those who contribute just five bucks, you get the full two albums. If you have a little more green to offer up, you can then spend the day with Debby and be her special guest in the studio!

Sign. Us. Up.

You can hear Debby talk about her campaign and watch some kick-ass snippets of her performing all over the gay U-S-of-A in the video below.  

 

 

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Not that there's not enough love to go around, but ever since her Billboard hits 'Dive' and 'Joyful Sound,' it's been like 'Debbie Gibson who?' We're totally #teamholiday 

Donate TODAY, new album in February 2014!

September Audio Reviews

By Robbie Daw, John Hamilton & Stephen Sears

Our Audio section is 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 Goldfrapp, AlunaGeorge, Janelle Monáe, Natalia Kills and more.

GOLDFRAPP

Tales of Us (Mute)

4.5 Stars

Goldfrapp’s sixth album opener, “Jo,” starts with a red herring: a burst of synth strings. They quickly fade to a plucked bass and Alison Goldfrapp’s beautiful voice singing, “Heard a shot and someone calling, strained in darkness.” It’s as if she’s passed through a film noir portal. The album’s ten songs are narratives: “Annabel,” based on the story of a young hermaphrodite expected to choose one sexual identity; “Simone,” a betrayal scenario. Only the pounding “Thea” hints at past disco majesty; most of Tales is built on acoustic instrumentation, awash in orchestrals.  Make no mistake: the album is a perfect fall headphone record.  The lone song without a proper name, “Stranger,” ascends the (felt) mountain of Goldfrappian classics. To paraphrase its lyric, Tales Of Us will kill you, tenderly. — SS 

 

 

 

AVICII

TRUE (PRMD/Island)

4 Stars

Like a slightly more ambitious David Guetta (heaven forbid), Avicii is taking the opportunity of his first studio album to make a play for world domination. With a Grammy nomination, a bona fide dance-pop classic in the Etta James-sampling “Levels,” and new single “Wake Me Up” bounding into the U.S. Top 10, the 24-year-old DJ/Producer just may be onto something. TRUE parlays his disco expertise into a surprisingly diverse set of pop tunes, one that betrays influences of everything from country to '60s psyche-pop to ethereal diva wailing. He’s even wangled guest star collaborations from Nile Rodgers, Adam Lambert and Mac Davis, of all people, to show that his musical roots extend beyond the club. If that all sounds terrifyingly unfocused, fear not: every track is an upbeat corker with a chorus clearly engineered for major dance floor arm-waving. Extra points for doing so without help from Sia or Pitbull. — JH 

 

 

 

 

JANELLE MONE

Electric Lady (Wondaland Arts/Bad Boy)

4 Stars

The curious case of Janelle Monáe: Prince, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Liza Minnelli rolled into one pocket-sized pistol. High art, high hair and high fashion have not equaled high charting singles. Second LP Electric Lady is a Gemini, split into two halves. The first is serious funk R’n’B soul (her duet with Miguel, “PrimeTime,” may actually dent the charts). The Stevie Wonderesque second half (check “It’s Code” and “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”) is a near flawless '70s album unto itself. Make your own playlist and call it Songs In The Key Of Monáe. — SS 

 

 

 

 

ALUNAGEORGE

Body Music (Vagrant)

3.5 Stars

Riding the current wave of UK dance that also includes Jessie Ware, Katy B and a raft of other hopefuls, electro-soul duo AlunaGeorge have a good shot at their own hit with the sleek Body Music. Reminiscent of Craig David, AlunaGeorge—singer Aluna Francis and knob-twiddler George Reid—lay atmospheric R&B over skittering 2-step garage beats and taut, popping basslines like nobody’s business. Although most tracks swing in the right direction (first single “You Know You Like It” is a jam) and seamlessly fuse the dance floor with the bedroom (album highlight “Driver”), nothing lingers in the memory very long after it’s ended. Still, it’s a pleasant enough party that ends on a high note with a cheeky cover of Montell Jordan’s classic “This is How We Do It.” — JH 

 

 

 

 

NATALIA KILLS

Trouble (Interscope)

3.5 Stars

Ah, Natalia Kills—the raven-haired Hot Topic goth girl who tried to jump on the Lady Gaga bandwagon three years ago with clumsy electro debut Perfectionist. How she’s still signed to a major label after that colossal flop is anyone’s guess, but here we are. “That girl is a problem,” Natalia warns on electric rock rant “Problem,” before asking, “Don’t you wanna save this dirty little damsel?” Other tracks like “Saturday Night” and “Outta Time” mine '80s synth pop for all it's worth. To be honest, the overall result here is a generally pleasing, modern-sounding record (as it should be, given that studio whiz Jeff Bhasker produced the album). When presented with a rare second chance, Kills seized upon it and actually delivered a somewhat solid album. Whether she’ll get the big break it’ll take to catapult this into the mainstream, however, remains to be seen. — RD 

 

 

August Audio Reviews

By Robbie Daw and John Hamilton

Our Audio section is 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 Annie, Ayah Marar, The Civil Wars, KT Tunstall and more.

 

ANNIE

The A&R EP (Pleasure Masters)

4 Stars

Like a skip through the neon-lit streets of Clubland, The A&R EP showcases what singer/songwriter Annie and frequent collaborator Richard X do best: make sparkling, futuristic dance music with a winking eye toward the past. Whereas previous singles betrayed a love for the ‘80s (“Chewing Gum,” “Anthonio”), A&R dips into ‘90s house and dance-pop sounds with cheeky aplomb. First single “Back Together” percolates with the upbeat spirit of Cathy Dennis, while centerpiece “Ralph Macchio” frames an irony-free love letter to the Karate Kid star in a flurry of bleeps and bloops. Lucky for listeners, Annie can be eccentric without losing sight of the fun, ensuring The A&R EP stays as chipper, sexy, and bold as its colorful artwork promises. —JH 

 

 

 

 

AYAH MARAR

The Real (Radikal)

3 Stars

UK-based singer Ayah Marar is a voice you’re likely just now getting up to speed on thanks to her feature on Calvin Harris’ current UK Top 10 hit “Thinking About You.” That particular ‘90s house throwback is truly the best track off the Scottish DJ/producer’s most recent album, 18 Months (she's also featured on “Flashback” from Harris’ previous album Ready For The Weekend), and now Marar’s own album, The Real, is seeing the light of day in the States. Generic-sounding production weighs some of this dance-driven LP down, (dubstep numbers “The Predator” and “Alive” are particularly overcooked), but there are two highlights worth checking out: throbbing jam “Mind Controller” and the album’s housey title track. —RD

 

 

 

 

THE CIVIL WARS

The Civil Wars (Columbia)

4 Stars

As tender as some tracks on this—the second album from country/folk heroes The Civil Wars—are (“Same Old Same Old” is a particular heart-tugging highlight), one can’t help thinking of the duo’s inner strife while listening.  Quick catch-up: Joy Williams and John Paul White struck a chord with music buyers two years ago with Barton Hollow and subsequently when on to snag a Grammy. They’ve since gone on hiatus and we’re now left with their fragile, self-titled sophomore album sitting among the ashes. Knowing this makes their Smashing Pumpkins cover “Disarm” ring with even more poignancy, and the duo’s harmonies on songs like “Dust To Dust” seem like a sad reminder of a once-promising partnership. —RD

 

 

 

 

KT TUNSTALL

Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon (Blue Note)

4 Stars

The world needs more guitar-toting divas like Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall. She doesn’t make hits, rather, she crafts music that’s thoroughly enjoyable to throw on in the background while taking in a book at the coffee shop, lounging in a hammock or sharing a bottle of wine on the patio with friends. And the latter is far more difficult to achieve than the former. The double slashes in the album title here come from the fact that Tunstall staged two different recording sessions, in Arizona with indie/alt-country songwriter Howard Gelb in 2012. The result is a double-album-in-one with gorgeous, piano-driven gems like “Crescent Moon” and “Yellow Flower,” as well as sweet jangle-pop numbers “Invisible Empire” and “Honeydew.” —RD 

 

 

 

 

RUDIMENTAL

Home (Big Beat)

4 Stars

This British dance outfit struck a home run in their home country last year with “Feel The Love,” a euphoric dance track that features up-and-coming soul crooner John Newman. They’ve since wrangled in other prominent hitmakers to lend their voices, like Emeli Sande (on “Free” and “More Than Anything”), Angel Haze (“Hell Could Freeze”), Foxes (“Right Here”) and Alex Clare (“Not Giving In”). As far as DJ-fronted pop goes, Rudimental’s album Home is more pleasant than anything David Guetta has chucked out and on par with the best of Calvin Harris. This one is all beats and heart. —RD 

 

 

The Six EPs You Need To Be Spinning Right Now

The EP is the new black. Why more artists aren't doing them proves nothing except the fact that music labels have a hard time thinking outside the old box. Robyn nailed the genre back in 2010 with her Body Talk EPs, while London's Florrie showed us how the format can spur a fan following. Four to five songs, no filler. Lean mean, quicker to create. At the hazy tail end of summer, we look back at some short players we've had on a loop (or can’t wait to download), all from—no shocker—indie artists. 

By Jeff Katz & Stephen Sears

Annie: The A&R EP

Annie was Annie before everybody else tried to BE Annie. Got that? She is the original pop/indie hybrid goddess. So it's a bit meta that "Back Together"—the EP's first video—was co-written by Little Boots, herself an Annie acolyte. This long overdue release is a taste of European summer. Recorded with pop wizard Richard X in his London studio, these five tracks splash across pop styles, from the edgy club beats of "Invisible" to a kicky ode to ’80s Karate Kid icon "Ralph Macchio." Nothing here carries much gravitas, but that's not the point. It’s sweet music from an artist we admire. —SS

“Back Together”

 

David LaBrel: Young At Heart

The only gripe we have with David LaBrel’s EP is that it didn’t come out sooner, since the EP’s namesake, “Young At Heart,” could have easily been the lead track for our summer soundtrack. The Olin and the Moon frontman’s solo effort delivers solid, homegrown rock—with just a tinge of nostalgia—and showcases a welcome aggression from LaBrel not often seen in the band’s previous work. But don’t fret, Olin enthusiasts; the heart is here, too. “Move On” drives with beautiful pain that’ll have you singing along with the “letting go” refrain at the top of your lungs. So roll the windows down for one more summer spin with the disc’s single, and then download the EP this fall on iTunes. —JK

“Young At Heart”

 

Betty Who: The Movement (available via free download from Betty Who's website)

New rules: The best pop stars are born outside the machine. 21-year-old Jess Newham, aka Betty Who, fresh out of Boston's Berklee College of Music, is the most ebullient she-popper in years. If you ever went to summer camp and developed a gayboy crush on the peppiest girl counselor, that's Betty. She's a towering platinum blond, all red lips and sassy charm. There's not one duff track on her debut EP: "Somebody Loves You" is best heard on a beach boombox, while "Right Here" is all romantic anticipation and "You're In Love" features a chorus that puts Newham on a vocal high-wire. And then there's "High Society," with its own new rules: "We drink chardonnay through the day 'cuz we say so." Cheers! —SS

 

Lorde: The Love Club

If you’ve somehow missed the Lorde train, consider this your last stop before this thing gets into high speed. The Kiwi teen has been a force on alt radio this summer with her addictive single “Royals,” and the best news is there’s more goodness where that came from! The Love Club EP is perfectly packaged with five diverse tracks (and one tricked-out remix), running the gamut from the percussion-heavy “Million Dollar Bills” to the Lily Allen-esque “The Love Club.” Nothing hits quite as brilliantly as “Royals,” but that just leaves us to believe the best is yet to come on the full LP, the wonderfully clever Pure Heroine, out Sept. 30. —JK

“Royals”

 

Slow Knights: Sweet Harmony 

Scissor Sisters' Del Marquis has gathered a collective of artists under the name Slow Knights. Think of it as an ’80s/’90s-influenced R&B/pop supergroup, except the singers are all up and coming. The mid-tempo title track is sung by Mykal Kilgore and Bridget Barkan as if they're a 21st Century Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal. The song's co-writer, Bright Light Bright Light’s Rod Thomas, adds a literally stomping remix (check that bit at 4:24) that would've been perfect for Blond Ambition-era Madonna. The EP is fleshed out by two funky new b-sides, "Criminal Mind" and "All Eyes On The Prize." Prince fans should note that former members of Prince’s New Power Generation form Slow Knight’s backing band. —SS

"Sweet Harmony"

 

Daniel Robinson: Guesswork

We’re not quite sure he’s old enough to really remember the heyday of his influences, but Daniel Robinson’s Guesswork pays perfect homage to the moody best of Erasure/Pet Shop Boys/every others ’80s electro band you rebelled alongside. But it’s not all stale reminiscing here. Robinson takes on the dance wave of the moment and infuses his dark spin with “Invasion,” while picking up the pop pace in “Running With Wolves.” But it's “Sugar” that has us clamoring for more, showcasing a maturity and cool musical sensibility. —JK  

"Sugar"
 

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