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record reviews



Published: Sun, February 3, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Kris Kristofferson

Album: “Feeling Mortal” (KK)

Grade: B+

As the title “Feeling Mortal” implies, singer- songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson confronts the consequences of aging in this album of stripped-to-the-bone acoustic songs.

At 76, Kristofferson has grown into his ragged rasp of a voice, which fits with lyrics that deal with being “here today and gone tomorrow,” as he sings in the title cut.

Typical of his past work, Kristofferson’s new tunes delineate his feelings in descriptive verse that is unflinchingly honest and ultimately full of wonder.

Compassionate toward others and uncompromising about himself, Kristofferson offers heartfelt observations about love, family, morality and “the right to be righteously wrong,” as stated in the stubbornly independent “You Don’t Tell Me What To Do.”

Throughout, he reminds us of how powerful a plainspoken song can be.

He may feel mortal, but he knows a good song can last forever.

— Michael McCall, Associated Press

TEGAN AND SARA

Album: “Heartthrob”

Grade: A-

Tegan and Sara Quin were once the darlings of the indie-rock set, charming Canadian twins known for their raw, guitar-driven confessionals packed with emotion.

On “Heartthrob” (Vapor/ Warner Bros.), the Quins’ seventh album, they let their inner dance-pop divas loose.

Instead of Cat Power teamed with Ani DiFranco, they now sound like Kelly Clarkson paired with Gwen Stefani. And, in a bigger surprise, they sound pretty darn great doing it.

Tegan and Sara teamed with producer Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Clarkson and Ke$ha, to build a shiny dance pop album that still includes their personal lyrics and memorable melodies.

The single “Closer” announces the change of direction and their broader commercial ambitions — a catchy, stomping dance number that would be at home on a Katy Perry album and, more important, at the top of the pop charts.

The synthy “Drove Me Wild” has slightly more of an edge, moving into Ellie Goulding territory.

Where Tegan and Sara really shine on “Heartthrob,” though, is when they reimagine songs that would previously have worked on their own albums and add some pop gloss.

“I’m Not Your Hero” could have been on “The Con,” but it has received a Clarkson-esque makeover with “Since U Been Gone”-ish guitar and the synth-pop swoosh of “Stronger.”

“How Come You Don’t Want Me,” which they wrote with longtime friend Jack Antonoff of fun., shows how Tegan and Sara can keep their history of deep feelings and weave it into their bright, poppier future.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

JUSTIN BIEBER

Album: “Believe Acoustic”

Grade: C

The instincts behind Justin Bieber’s “Believe Acoustic” (Island) are understandable. Biebs wants to be taken seriously as an artist and as a man.

However, applying the same simple acoustic arrangement to the big pop productions of his “Believe” album doesn’t help his cause.

The stripped-back takes on “Beauty and a Beat” or even “Boyfriend” are interesting because they differ so much from the originals.

But the other acoustic takes quickly become unnecessary since the vocals and tempo barely change. “Believe Acoustic” feels like a shortcut to seriousness that he didn’t need to take.

Relax, Biebs, your life is great.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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