Record reviews

Sting & Shaggy

Album: “44/876”

Grade: B+

The fact that Shaggy and Sting are teaming up on a CD does, admittedly, sound like a gimmick. Why are these two very different artists together? Because they happen to be known by a single name? Why not keep going and add Shakira, Sia, Slash and Seal?

Maybe one day, but put the snarkiness aside and enjoy this warm bromance between the Jamaican dancehall king and the cool, intellectual Englishman.

“44/876” — the title is a combo of the phone country codes for Sting’s native England and Shaggy’s Jamaica — makes sense as soon as you recall Sting’s liberal use of reggae rhythms as part of The Police.

It turns out there’s real chemistry between Shaggy, whose deep, thick cadences made “Boombastic” and “It Wasn’t Me” such beloved hits, and Sting’s flexible, honeyed voice.

The duo helped write every song on the 12-track album and their collaboration has triggered some interesting — some might say curious — songwriting, including lifted poetry from Lewis Carroll for “Just One Lifetime” and some role-playing (Shaggy portrays a judge and Sting a defendant on the innovative “Crooked Tree”).

The first, title song smartly honors Bob Marley as a way of inoculating everyone for this quirky offering. Then it’s off to more trop-hop on this sunny Caribbean jaunt.

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press


Album: “Primal Heart”

Grade: A

If there’s any musical justice, Kimbra’s third studio album should be the one that finally catapults the New Zealander to the acclaim she deserves.

On the 12-track “Primal Heart,” the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter shows off her impressive range, from glistening techno-pop to string-and-piano-fed torch songs to even a world beat-driven club banger.

Not familiar with the name? Born Kimbra Johnson, she already has two Grammy Awards, thanks to her monster collaboration on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” in 2012. Six years later, she is someone you need to know.

Kimbra is joined by Skrillex for the high-energy, hypnotic “Top of the World,” which combines the current thirst for African rhythms with wonderfully bombastic lyrics.

If that’s her on top, a few songs later she’s broken and beaten on the achingly intimate, stripped-down “Version of Me,” in which she wrestles with her faults and begs a lover to “stay for the person I’ll be.”

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Laura Veirs

Album: “The Lookout”

Grade: B

Coming off an exceptional album and tour with k.d. lang and Neko Case in 2016, Laura Veirs spent months and months writing and re-writing dozens of songs in her Portland, Ore., studio. The hard work has paid off and it sounds so good and natural that you won’t notice all the perspiration bonding with the inspiration to become “The Lookout,” her 10th solo record.

Veirs makes little revelations here and there about her own life and circumstances, or about who was in her thoughts for a particular tune. But instead of screaming out the headlines, she kneads the hints into the songs. In general, Veirs says the album deals with “the fragility of precious things... the importance of looking out for each other.”

The title track, for example, is about her husband/producer/drummer Tucker Martine while “Heavy Petals” is a tribute to David Bowie, where “sunlight unserious” contrasts with his own “serious moonlight” phrase.

The death of a friend and a T.S. Eliot poem led to the affecting “Margaret Sands” and the gently swaying “Seven Falls” looks back to childhood behavior she now regrets.

—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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