Maybe John Mayer is finally catching on.
He launches his sixth album, "Paradise Valley" (Columbia) - the first since undergoing voice-threatening surgery to remove a granuloma on one of his vocal cords and the second since his career-threatening interview with Playboy, when he offered what some considered racist and sexist comments - with what he does best. Say what you need to say about Mayer, he is a gifted guitarist and a skillful interpreter of the blues.
And he makes the most of those talents here, starting with the folk-tinged blues of "Wildfire" and "Badge and Gun," which would fit nicely on Bob Dylan's latest albums. The lovely Americana closer "On the Way Home" puts Mayer in the same radio-friendly folk category as Mumford and Sons and Phillip Phillips. The album's most effective song, though, is when Frank Ocean sings "Wildfire" and Mayer backs him up.
JOHN MAYER "Paradise Valley" THE GRADE: B-
BOTTOM LINE Trying to charm his way back into music fans' hearts
Of course, Mayer can't give up his love of controversy completely, taking Taylor Swift to task in the thinly veiled put-down "Paper Doll." His collaboration with current girlfriend Katy Perry, "Who You Love" doesn't turn out any better, as they coo at each other on the bland ballad. Then, there's the odd mix of cliches in "I Will Be Found (Lost at Sea)," where Mayer sings, "I'm a little lost at sea. I'm a little birdie in a big old tree. Ain't nobody looking for me here out on the highway."
Yes, Mayer may still be a little lost. But "Paradise Valley" shows he may soon find his way.
'I HATE MUSIC' REVIEW: THEY DON'T REALLY
Superchunk's Mac McCaughan isn't kidding when he declares, "I hate music. What is it worth? Can't bring anyone back to this earth." But that dose of realism simply makes the band's "I Hate Music" (Merge) that much easier to love. Throughout the album, McCaughan moves between trying to keep the importance of music to a normal adult in perspective - especially in "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo" and "Void" - and getting carried away by its potential beauty ("Trees of Barcelona") and its overwhelming fun ("FOH"). What makes "I Hate Music" such a treasure, though, is the way the fiery, post-punk guitars and raucous rhythms make each song even more intense.
SUPERCHUNK "I Hate Music" THE GRADE: A
BOTTOM LINE So many indie-rock reasons to love "Hate"
Does Katy Perry's new single, "Roar" (Capitol), sound familiar? Those laid-back, "Hard Knock Life"-like synths, the midtempo rhythm track, the sweeping production on the chorus - it all sounds an awful lot like Sara Bareilles' single "Brave," which arrived four months ago. Of course, this will hardly matter in the long run. Perry is already well on her way to another
No. 1, despite numerous throwaway lines like, "You held me down, but I got up." "Roar" is catchy and immediately recognizable, but maybe she should credit Bareilles for breaking some of that ground.
NEW IN STORES
Jimmy Buffett's "Songs From St. Somewhere" (Mailboat)
Tedeschi Trucks Band's "Made Up Mind" (Sony Masterworks)
Earl Sweatshirt's "Doris" (Columbia)
Blue October's "Sway" (RED)
Typhoon's "White Lighter" (Roll Call)
Glenn Gamboa: firstname.lastname@example.org
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