As music columnist for hellomagazine.ca, each week I’ll bring you my selections for the best and most notable new music, albums you’re going to want to add to your collection plus a five-song playlist to try out. Happy listening!
Madonna – Rebel Heart
This wouldn’t be a Madonna album if there weren’t at least several deliberately provocative songs. The icon’s 13th release contains her usual mix of sex and sacrilege, including the Kanye West-produced “Holy Water” and the Avicii-assisted “Devil Pray.” And she doesn’t shy from referencing herself on “B---- I’m Madonna,” the buzzing, disorienting track featuring Nicki Minaj, and her own songs on “Veni Vidi Vici.” For all that, Rebel Heart finds the 56-year-old Material Girl refreshingly at peace with herself. “I can’t be a superhero right now... I'm only human,” she sings on the personal “Joan of Arc.” On the Diplo-produced disco smash “Living for Love,” a post-breakup number, she admits her mistakes and declares, “After the heartache, I’m gonna carry on.” Like “Devil Pray,” the title track uses an acoustic vibe to convey her deepest confessions: “Outgrown my past and I’ve shed my skin/letting it go and I’ll start again.” Madonna’s still able to shock and match beats with the best of them. But with this album, the Queen of Pop seems more content to just be herself.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES:
Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
Modest Mouse has made a habit of jittery, cautionary indie-rock tales about mankind’s disregard for nature. The group’s sixth album is no exception, featuring frontman Isaac Brock’s edgy warnings on songs like “Coyotes” and “Lampshades on Fire,” the latter with dire, thumping reckonings about earth’s future.
Marina & the Diamonds – Froot
The Welsh star (born Marina Diamandis) made her mark with her last album, the heartbroken pop of Electra Heart. Her follow-up record is darker and more textured sonically, but reflects a distinctly more upbeat outlook, especially on the ballad “Happy,” in which she declares “I’ve found what I’ve been looking for in myself.”
Van Morrison – Duets: Reworking the Catalogue
Teaming up with daughter Shana and singers Joss Stone, Mick Hucknall and Michael Bublé, the latter on a thrilling remake of “Real Real Gone,” Van the Man shows off his appeal with a new generation on his latest. But some of the best duets here are with some of his contemporaries, including Mavis Staples, Taj Mahal and Steve Winwood.
Joel Plaskett – The Park Avenue Sobriety Test
The Nova Scotia alt-rocker is a gifted songsmith with a knack for indelible melody and ingenious rhyme. His latest, which runs the gamut from acoustic gems to hard-edged keepers with ex-members of his bands Thrust Hermit and the Emergency, shows off both sides of his talent.
Drake’s Homecoming: The Lost Footage
In 2009, following the commercial and critical breakthrough of his So Far Gone mixtape, Drake returned to Toronto for a concert at the Sound Academy. The sold-out show, which attracted diehard fans eager to shower their hometown hero with love, was filmed but the footage was thought to have been lost—until now. The rediscovered material is now a documentary, featuring performances of early hits like “Successful” and “Best I Ever Had” and interviews with Rap-a-Lot Records’ James Prince and his son Jas Prince, who discovered the Toronto rapper. Capturing an emotional highlight in his storybook career, this is essential viewing for any Drake fan – though the artist has distanced himself from the release via Twitter, stating that he and OVO have nothing to do with the documentary.