Person L / The Positives / Academy Fight Song
This is the current project of Kenny Vasoli, also of The Starting Line (who are currently on hiatus, but are slated to play several shows over the holidays). Essentially, Person L is The Starting Line at half time. Through the guise of Person L, Vasoli deals with problems in his life at a tempo that allows for brooding, grungy variations on themes of uncertainty. There are clever lead and rhythmic instrumentals that emote the same sort of sugar freak-forced to sit on his hands built up anxiety as Vasoli’s vocals. This is Person L’s second album and proves, perhaps, that The Starting Line may have, in fact, been just a starting line for Vasoli’s musical ambitions.
Download: “Good Days,” “Goodness Gracious”
Norah Jones/ The Fall / EMI
The Fall, the fourth album from soul songstress Norah Jones, is a perfect album to wake up to on a day when you’ve got absolutely nothing to do. Consistently precise bass and unsharpened razorblade guitar rhythms back her husky voice in a way that would ease you awake with the warmth of the rising sun. Her voice is that of a disinterested lover lying on the other side of the bed, vocally dealing with her regret and hang over from the night before. At the same time, it’s also an album that would make falling asleep pretty easy. Jones takes it slow and easy throughout tracks like “Back To Manhattan” and “Light as a Feather,” picking up the pace most notably on “It’s Gonna Be,” a funky organ and drums driven number. This album isn’t so much one to accompany a fall from grace, but rather one to listen to while relishing in the glorious morning after.
Download: “Chasing Pirates”, “I Wouldn’t Need You”
Adam Lambert / For Your Entertainment / RCA
It’s become pretty popular, pretty easy, to hate Adam Lambert very recently. That’s what makes giving this album a passable review so gratifying and simultaneously confusing for me. For the guy who’s going to be known for trying to ‘break the double standard’ that exists between male and female performers, he’s done a good job of translating this ambition onto his album, which is none of the theatrical melodrama you’d expect from an American Idol runner up (ahem, Clay Aiken) but all of the synth and head bobbing four-on-the-floor disco beats of the Scissor Sisters. Okay, so until now I’ve ignored the fact that there are still plenty of just the sort of theatrical pap you’d expect from a celebrity pop-music competitor, but Lambert’s take on ballads (as on “Broken Open”) includes deft and entrancing trip-hop beats that turn a song Clay Aiken might’ve sung from a rocky beach in a button-up shirt to a song Lambert sings from a rocky beach in the fog, with a button-up shirt. “Soaked,” another obvious seeming ballad, breaks into a wash of Eastern orchestral chamber music, backed by sharp drums. The mind recoils as the foot taps. It’s too late for you, you’re enjoying an Adam Lambert song.
John Mayer / Battle Studies / Columbia
By virtue of the airy adult-contemporary singles that have garnered John Mayer the most airplay, people who have never seen him perform or heard one of his whole albums will have a radically different impression of the skill and influences he brings to the table than those who know him for the virtuoso blues daddy he really is. Well, for blues fans that follow the famed guitarist not for his public persona, but for his talent and dedication to roots music, Battles Studies is less a slap in the face from Mayer and more a disappointing lullaby, played for you before he takes your mom into the other room. As if to throw a bone to blues fans, he does a polished and ‘understated’ version of the old standby “Crossroads” that clocks in at under two-and-a-half minutes. To put that into perspective, Clapton has been known to vamp that song out to twice or three times that length. A lot of strained war metaphors make up Mayer’s ‘battle’-themed tracks – but the highlights are when he drops these clichés worn thin by U2 to, on “Who Says” and “Edge Of Desire,” produce really thoughtful lyrics balancing doubt and insecurity with bluesman brashness and independence (“Who says I can’t get high?”). These songs make good use of understated and slow building guitar that exemplify what this project seems to have been all about – subtlety.
Download: “Who Says,” “Edge Of Desire”