CD reviews: Miley Cyrus, The Avett Brothers
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
For all the antics that Miley Cyrus has demonstrated in the last few months — the wardrobe selections (or lack thereof), the outrageous quotes, the awkward twerking and the rest of her wild child behavior — she could easily grab attention if she did one thing: let her music speak for itself.
Cyrus’ “Bangerz,” her fourth album, is a collection that marks the 20-year-old’s musical breakthrough. The former “Hannah Montana” star kicks off the 13-track set with “Adore You,” a downbeat song about love. Other tracks that follow with that energy — “Wrecking Ball,” “My Darlin’ ” and “Somewhere Else” — capture a more mature, nuanced side of Cyrus that we haven’t seen much of, and that’s a welcome change. When she explores the different emotions of her character and doesn’t play the caricature that she’s become, you’re able to appreciate Cyrus as an artist.
If using the phrase “artist” and Cyrus is shocking, it follows the theme of “Bangerz,” which surprises you, in a good way. When Cyrus teased the album with the radio-friendly party anthem “We Can’t Stop” (a song originally created for Rihanna) and said producers would include Pharrell, Dr. Luke and will.i.am, the album seemed like it was going to be a hit machine in the vein of Rihanna or Katy Perry. But Cyrus’ jams don’t sound like insta-hits; some tracks even feel experimental as she blends elements of alternative, upbeat pop, soft rock with hints of R&B and hip-hop.
The Britney Spears-assisted “SMS (Bangerz)” and the Pharrell-produced “#GETITRIGHT” are addictive, feel-good, up-tempo pop tunes; “FU” — guess what it stands for — has Cyrus semi-angry over a dramatic beat, and it makes for an overall punchy and amazing track; and “4x4,” featuring Nelly, is a pop-twang adventure. Even “Do My Thang,” where Cyrus isn’t too convincing as a rapper, sounds good thanks to the groovy hook that she sings, and will.i.am’s Southern hip-hop-flavored beat.
Cyrus should focus less on the antics and let her music do the talking — and keep that Sinead O’Connor letter in her back pocket (whenever her outfit allows it).
By Mesfin Fekaduap, Associated Press
The Avett Brothers
Magpie and the Dandelion/American
The evolving definition of folk music currently carries a little bit of rock, a little bit of reverb and a few other nontraditional flavors thrown in the stew. It’s all being well received and The Avett Brothers’ new album, “Magpie and the Dandelion,” should be no exception.
Songs like “Open Ended Life” and “Skin and Bones” present a folk version of rock’s wall-of-sound approach. Instead of a nuanced give and take between banjo and guitar and drums, we get them all at once, side by side, vying for attention. With proper mixing it works on these hardened-heart love songs.
Things work up to a glorious crescendo on several tracks, going from simmer to boil on “Another is Waiting.” Though it’s worth noting that the sizzle on “Magpie” is mostly thanks to strong instrumentals. The group lacks a strong lead vocalist. Both Scott and Seth Avett can sing, but not convincingly enough to mesmerize the listener because of it.
All in all, this is pleasant listening and the songs stick in the head. The North Carolina trio is a tight band eight albums into their career, and the folk renaissance has ushered in a new and deserving appreciation for their lilting nu-folk.
By Ron Harris, Associated Press