Reliable pop rocker doesn’t disappoint on solo album
Album: The Great Unknown
Artist: Rob Thomas
Don’t let the title fool you: Rob Thomas remains a known quantity on his third solo album. While that means there aren’t many surprises, the good news is he’s still the same consummate pop-rock craftsman who has been making it all sound so smooth for years. Reunited with Matchbox Twenty producer Matt Serletic, Thomas piles on the hooks right from the opener, ‘I Think We’d Feel Good Together,’ a soulful come-on. Even catchier is ‘Hold On Forever’ — it’s pure acoustic-guitar bliss. Elsewhere, the title tune is an atmospheric ballad about “driving through the valley of the great unknown.” With Thomas at the wheel, you can trust the journey.
A covers album from the Aussie songbird who sang ‘Torn’
Artist: Natalie Imbruglia
If you always dreamed you’d get a chance to hear Natalie Imbruglia sing ‘I Melt With You’, your future just got a little more open wide. This Australian pop thrush broke hearts around the world back in the Nineties with her classic karaoke weeper ‘Torn’, and Male has that same lying-naked-on-the-floor vibe: Imbruglia covers 12 songs made famous by dude acts, including Neil Young, Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Death Cab for Cutie and Zac Brown Band. The ache in her voice oddly suits Daft Punk’s ‘Instant Crush’ and Iron and Wine’s ‘Naked as We Came’. The best moment is the most bizarre: Imbruglia turns the Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” into a country hoedown, complete with a so-not-goth banjo solo.
Squeaky-clean pop star shows she’s all grown up on her fun, clubby third album
Album: Right Here Right Now
Artist: Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks has made a career out of age-appropriate pop — catchy enough for the charts, tame enough for your parents. The 25-year-old star’s first new LP in six years sees her becoming sexier, sassier and shadier with time. Taking cues from R&B upstarts like Tinashe and Jhené Aiko, Sparks focuses on singing in ways that play off the beats (many supplied by Amy Winehouse producer Salaam Remi), although she still makes time for some of her signature pop belting. On the 2 Chainz-featuring ‘Double Tap’, she laments a thirsty Instagram lurker; the infectious ‘Boyz in the Hood’ aims for hip-hop kitsch. A few ballads drag down the album’s momentum and get lost among the bouncy club songs, which either recall DJ Mustard’s sound or are actually produced by him (‘It Ain’t You’). Still, rays of sunshine like the reggae jam ‘Casual Love’, featuring Shaggy, remind us that Sparks is still a girl on fire.
– Rolling Stone
Footnote: Vasay Chaudhry’s interview will be featured in the
upcoming issue of Instep on Sunday