Adele – 21
Wow this girl can sing! Her enchantingly raspy voice sounds as if the devil from Georgia is playing the fiddle in her voice box. She has the soulful charm of Amy Winehouse minus the beehive and rehab. Her sound and pitch paint a lyrical masterpiece influenced by the love and loss in this young woman’s life-you can tell she is singing from the heart and isn’t just pumping out plastic beats with fingers crossed. “Rolling in the deep” begins the album and is stunningly powerful with a simplistic drum to accompany Adele’s booming tone. She sounds best when it is her voice cracking under the weight of emotion and a few piano keys to harmonize the medley of talent. The heartbreak tracks are utterly captivating and are comparable to the beauty found in a quivering lower lip, such simplicity to depict a swell of emotion. This album best served with a glass of wine.
– Nicolle Hodges
Jimmy Zee – Devil Take Me Down
This album is seriously lacking in both funk and soul, especially considering the band’s promo claims its sound to be “funky and soulful.” While the music on this album is flawless in timing and technique, its bluesy, classic rock sound is anything but original. Frankly, it sounds like a soulless imitation of Dylan’s Modern Times album. It’s hard to fault Jimmy Zee’s musicianship, but it’s clear to see why his career has primarily been as a studio musician; he clearly lacks the spirit and artistry needed to make a song truly sing, though his music is certainly of professional quality. Devil Take Me Down can honestly only be described as “unremarkable.”
– Jennifer Colbourne
Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
We’re off on an adventure, y’all, and Cudi’s Mr. Rager will not disappoint. It starts off grooving, with an opening track featuring Cee-Lo, and takes you on a magical ride through the mystical caverns that lie within the poetic and soulful mind of Scott Mescudi. Multi-layered “REVOFEV” bounces a wakeful protest into your ears, and soft, smooth ode to that sacred bud, “Marijuana,” soothes your brain like the sweet puffs of a hand-rolled cigarette. Next thing you know, bumping track “Mojo So Dope” has you bopping all over, and the eponymous “Mr. Rager” is a delightfully melodic journey to the centre of Cudi’s universe. “All Along,” the sweet and depressing surrender to loneliness, is a neat-o sing-along, while “GHOST!” confuses you into thinking its strangely counter-melodic parts don’t work together. With additional appearances from Mary J. Blige, Chip tha Ripper, Kanye West, St. Vincent, and more, on an album stuffed with solid tracks, the Kid has truly proven his mad skills.
– Katherine Hiebert
Us & Others – Patchwork
With a title like Patchwork, one might expect the debut album from Toronto six-piece Us & Others to display a greater wealth of original and compelling ideas than this 13-song manual to middle-of-the-road soft rock has to offer. It is an incredibly polished, yet soulless and placid collection of mid-tempo radio-friendly anthems manicured for mass consumption. Throughout the record, lead vocalist Graeme Cornies and his band mates deal with go-to themes like regret and change with the sort of measured and angst-ridden melodrama that has plagued commercial radio over the past 10 years in the form of a plethora of predictable post-grunge groups such as Daughtry. While the group’s musicianship is hardly in doubt, Us & Others play it so infuriatingly safe as to leave little impression on the listener. The songs go down easy, but are just as easily forgotten.
– Nick Ubels