record reviews

Katy Perry

Album: “Prism” (Capitol Records)

Grade: C+

Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” was perfect pop pleasantry, full of back-to-back hits that were fun and addictive, fused with humor, emotion and a hint of edge.

Perry has some of that energy on “Prism,” her third album, which comes three years after her pop breakthrough. But she lacks some of the fiery fierceness and excitement that dominated “Teenage Dream.” The singer’s new electro-pop songs are likable, but she plays it safe.

The California girl, who turned 29 recently, is now singing self-help anthems and about recovering from her 2011 divorce from comedian- actor Russell Brand. The songs, though, don’t drip with emotion and she rarely gets deep: The Sia-penned “Double Rainbow” and “By the Grace of God” don’t really scratch the surface.

“Prism” was primarily written and produced with her frequent collaborators and hitmakers Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Bonnie McKee. But they don’t always bring out the best Perry: “International Smile” is cheesy and “Legendary Lovers” is forgettable. Even “Roar,” the eighth No. 1 hit for Perry, lacks oomph and swag. Her team fares better on the sultry and upbeat “Birthday” and “Dark Horse,” featuring rapper Juicy J.

When Perry borders on changing up her sound and taking some risks, she is best. Part of the problem with “Prism” is it doesn’t showcase much of Perry’s personality. Instead, Perry comes off like a pop tart robot on her new effort.

— Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press

La Vega

Album: “Wave” (Major Nation)

Grade: B+

In its debut album, California rock band La Vega does more than most to evoke a time and place — in this case, the twilight glow of a beach town on a perfect summer day.

The songs lazily bob on a sea of reverb-soaked surf guitar, echoing vocals and shimmering sounds that hint at the promise of nightfall.

“Key West” deserves “song of the summer” votes in the indie-rock category.

Other standout tracks include the Strokes-y rocker “Where You Normally Go”; the Beatle-esque “You Had to Be There”; “Minor Nightmares,” which bounces like classic Fleetwood Mac right down to the background harmonies; and the melancholy “It’s Nice to Think It Might Be True.”

Not sure where La Vega will head on their next album; it might be time to get back to reality before the beach gets old.

— Guy D’Astolfo, The Vindicator

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