Matthew Good / Vancouver / Universal
In 2007, through great tension over his near-fatal overdose on prescription anti-anxiety medication and subsequent diagnosis with bipolar disorder, British Columbia-native Matthew Good released the most personal album of his over-a-decade long career; Hospital Music. Subject matter on his latest effort Vancouver, which revolves around the prolific singer-songwriter’s relationship with his longtime home, is practically as personal as that on Hospital Music. Like its predecessor, personal topics dealt with on Vancouver become moving and relatable through the dignity and maturity ever-present in Good’s voice. On tracks like “Last Parade” and “The Vancouver National Anthem”, Good tackles the issue of the “dark side” of the city – homelessness and drug addiction – an issue Good has also confronted by criticizing the city’s decision to host the upcoming Winter Games. The constant pressures of existence in an upscale metropolis and the effects they can have on one’s life – from putting impossible stress on relationships (“Us Remains Impossible”, “On Nights Like Tonight”) to irreparably upsetting one’s own inner peace (“Empty’s Theme Park”) – are prevalent themes throughout the album that ensure the feelings instilled in Vancouver will appeal to listeners far beyond the borders of that British Columbia city.
Download: “Us Remains Impossible”, “On Nights Like Tonight”
Pitbull / Rebelution / RCA
“I’m gonna give em what they ask for” states Miami rapper Pitbull, repeatedly, on the aptly titled “Give Them What They Ask For”. Given Pitbull’s Billboard success with songs like “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Krazy (feat. Lil Jon)” this ambition was realized. These tracks follow, almost indistinguishably, the same blueprints used by hit makers all decade. On “Krazy”, Pitbull combines a chorus where he encourages listeners to “get crazy,” not unlike the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get Retarded” (err, “Let’s Get it Started”), an obligatory bridge in which he name drops numerous large cities around the world, and a thumping beat with a catchy synth siren riff – not to mention Lil Jon. It would have been more of a shock if this slick track didn’t chart. Making an album full of club dance standards seems to grind irreconcilably against the album’s title, for which a more appropriate label might have been Ringtonelution, but Pitbull isn’t the only one to incorrectly label a product a revolution in recent memory (remember the Tic Tacs “small, fun revolution”?). He’s just giving them what they ask for.
Download: “Krazy (feat. Lil Jon)”, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)”
Boys Like Girls / Love Drunk / Columbia
Tracking the progress of Boston’s Boys Like Girls since the release of their first album to now is like watching them switch from being a band that could have played in the background of The O.C. to a band that could headline the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. With Love Drunk, Boys Like Girls switch from being a band you could mention in the same breath as pop-yet-alternative groups like Motion City Soundtrack and Something Corporate to a band instead belonging in the bustling ranks of poppity-pop-pop groups such as Metro Station and, yes, Simple Plan. Perhaps those are overstatements – they’re still capable of moving ballads and a rock track or two that you needn’t be pre-pubescent to enjoy – but there is a marked difference between writing songs where failed relationships feature prominently in the lyrics, and writing songs titled “Heart Heart Heartbreak” and “Love Drunk.” Of course, when this difference brings coveted chart positions and collaboration with Taylor Swift (“Two is Better Than One”) who am I to say it wasn’t a change worth making?
Download: “Chemicals Collide”, “The Shot Heard Round The World”