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record reviews



Published: Sun, December 9, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Ke$ha

Album: “Warrior” (RCA Records)

Grade: B

Don’t hate me — but this new Ke$ha album is good. “Warrior,” the 25-year-old’s sophomore release, is entertaining from top to bottom. Ke$ha — along with hitmaker Dr. Luke — has a knack for creating carefree and upbeat electro-pop songs that make you want to have a good time. It’s pure fun.

Yes, some of her lyrics are vapid and need work, but melodically, she’s got a winner, especially on the hooks on “Warrior.” The will.i.am-assisted “Crazy Kids,” which kicks off with whistling, is anthemic; “C’mon” is oh-so-fun; and “Thinking of You,” about an ex, transitions pleasantly from its thumping verse to its groovy hook. The lead single, “Die Young,” is just as addictive and was co-written with Nate Ruess of fun.

While Ke$ha deserves credit for putting together a nearly- great album, she has limitations. The songwriting on “Warrior” can be ridiculous. On “C’mon,” she rhymes “saber tooth tiger” with “warm Budweiser.” Also, Auto-tune remains her best friend.

Her singing is better on “Wonderland,” a slow groove about how her life has changed since she became a pop star (it gets a great drum assist from Patrick Carney of The Black Keys). And “Warrior” is much better than Ke$ha’s other releases. The “TiK ToK” singer has stretched her 15 minutes — and surprisingly, she’s worth the extra time.

— Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press

KID ROCK

Album: “Rebel Soul” (Atlantic)

Grade: B

Heartland rock and country epics — that was Kid Rock, vintage 2010. Kid’s “Born Free” that year was a good one, filled with the grandeur, grit and fresh air of a Bob Seger record, without Kid’s usual hip-hop lean or strip-club soliloquies. Problem was, few people bought into the idea of a Chevy truck-driving, wind-in-your-hair-styled Kid. They like their Kid with dirty hair and a dirtier mind.

So he gave it to them.

“Rebel Soul” is more cliche-driven than Rock’s foul, funkier previous albums. Then again, you don’t come to Kid’s albums for innovation. You come for tried-and-true rock-out axioms, ideas as worn as old motorcycle boots, and how Kid somehow makes them inviting. The churning, bass-heavy sound behind the yowling Rock is crusty and distorted — a perfect fit for the sleaze factor of cuts such as “Cocaine and Gin.”

No matter how tacky or tawdry, there’s always an earnest Kid trying to break through on tunes such as “God Save Rock n Roll.” As long as it’s nasty, let him try.

— A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

SCOTT WALKER

Album: “Bish Bosch” (4AD)

Grade: C

“Bish Bosch” takes its name in part from Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th-century Dutch painter known for his phantasmagorical and sometimes grotesque triptychs. He’s an apt reference point for the world Scott Walker conjures on his first album since 2006’s “Drift.” Walker, an American revered in Britain since his hits with the Walker Brothers in the mid-’60s, has come far since “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” “Bish Bosch” is a willfully inaccessible, darkly obfuscating album.

Walker’s dramatic baritone is intact at age 69, but he’s using it not as a romantic crooner but as an oracle from hellish depths. Walker doesn’t sing so much as intone the fragmented images, by turns poetic, scatological, and arcane; the music is an industrial blend of synthesizer squeals, abrasive guitar bursts, and martial drum crashes, punctuated by ominous quiet and literalist sounds of knives sharpening and grotesque bodily functions. One piece lasts more than 21 minutes. These aren’t songs so much as avant-garde theater pieces: discomforting and alienating.

— Steve Klinge, Philadelphia Inquirer

IRIS DEMENT

Album: “Sing the Delta” (Flariella)

Grade: A

Iris DeMent certainly takes her time making albums. “Sing the Delta” is her first in eight years and her first collection of new original material in 16. When the results are this sublimely good, however, it’s hard to complain.

The 51-year-old Arkansas-born singer may have been raised in Southern California, but her voice still possesses an industrial-strength nasal twang, one that radiates both frailty and resolve and is as real and unvarnished as the portrait of her on the cover. The music, likewise, is still rooted in country and gospel, with DeMent’s churchy piano underpinning most of the tracks. The vividly drawn songs bring striking depth and nuance to familiar country themes, whether she’s singing movingly about Mom and Dad, missing a loved one, or delivering a love song to her native South.

— Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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