No Doubt, "Push and Shove" (Interscope)
No Doubt fans have been waiting for the band's sixth album anxiously for the past 11 years. In the decade after releasing "Rock Steady," the four members have toured together, started families (separately) and pursued a few solo projects.
From the first listen one can tell it was worth the wait. "Push and Shove" returns to the group's type of ska mixed with dancehall, electro pop and a pinch of magic, expertly dished out by producer Spike Stent. The resulting 11-track album doesn't sound a day over 1995's "Tragic Kingdom," but that doesn't make it dated. It's that rare breed of record that carries the musicians' touch wherever on the timeline.
No Doubt songs have a way of letting you know they're not anyone else's. Despite misleading beginning notes such as the light pop touch synth on "Easy" or the exotic violins of "Push and Shove" and the straight rock of "Uncover," they all evolve into the No Doubt sound sooner or later, the type of playful rock that lulls you in with its genuine joie de vivre and lack of artifice.
Gwen Stefani, who has carved a successful career as a solo artist and fashion designer during the band's hiatus, radiates energy and reminds us why she is the ultimate rock chick.
The lyrics of Stefani and Tony Kanal remain in the realm of the romantic, of the mundane insecurities of long-term relationships without losing the poetic edge: "Just like Venus and the morning sun/You and me got gravity."
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "Undone" is the flavorful ballad you've been waiting for to take a walk in the park under the autumn foliage and mope around.
Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press
Thom makes her mark with 'Flesh and Blood'
Sandi Thom, "Flesh and Blood" (Guardian Angels)
After the success of "Merchants & Thieves" in 2010, Sandi Thom returns with her fourth album "Flesh and Blood"- an album she calls "a coming of age."
Produced by Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes and released on her independent label Guardian Angels Records, Thom proves that she is still relevant and in great vocal shape. From the moment you hit play, the raw soulfulness of Thom's voice on upbeat track "Help Me" makes it obvious it's coming from the heart.
It's not just the voice that tells you this but also the fact that Thom draws from personal experiences to create a record full to the brim with emotion by way of fierce and honest storytelling: "I'm leaving and scales of justice are even I still believe in, you own the air that I breathe in, I cried more you cried less, and I paid my debt in loneliness, so I owe you zero, I owe you zero.
These lyrics accompanied by an acoustic guitar to begin with and later joined by an electric guitar, make "I Owe You Zero" a powerful performance.
Primarily a blues-country record, it's layered with Motown influences as well as rock elements. "Stormy Weather" is all out rock and this mix of genres is definitely a style that suits her.
Those not familiar with Thom's music prior to this will be as delighted as established fans.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "The Big Ones Get Away" featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie - a superb duel for vocal attention with one of her idols.
Bianca Roach, Associated Press
Nothing poor in Stone's 'Rich Girl' return
Angie Stone, "Rich Girl" (SRR)
Angie Stone is back!
The soul songstress makes a triumphant return on her sixth album "Rich Girl" with a collection of positive, in-your-face, fresh funky tunes.
Letting you know what time it is from the start, she opens with a statement in "Intro: Real Music" that you can only nod in agreement with: "Music's in my heart and it's in my soul, there's nothing you can do 'cause I'm in control. So just sit on down and take a listen 'cause real music's here to stay, I'm 'bout to give you what's missing."
And she does just that.
"Do What U Gotta Do" will guarantee you get your two-step on. The vibe and sentiment here is empowering and the sweet message is definitely a winner.
"Backup Plan" will speed up your two-step and get your arms and shoulders involved too. It's a brilliant anthem for the ladies if ever a man needs replacing.
Previous work included hit duets with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq and Musiq (Soulchild) but the majority of this record comes from Stone - the background, arrangements and lyrical content. It's just her and the producers and they've created an immaculate album for one of the biggest soul stars of modern times.
You can be reassured that classic soul is back in the mix. "Rich Girl" is easy listening at its finest.
Welcome home, Angie.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: "Push 'N' Pull" is seductive and groovy, sure to keep you warm for the coming cold season.
Bianca Roach, Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.