Record reviews


Shawn Mendes

Album: “Shawn Mendes”

Grade: A

The month of May is turning into a banner one for album releases from young, good-looking, sensitive singer-songwriters blessed with awesome falsettos. First came Charlie Puth and now comes his tour mate Shawn Mendes.

Mendes’ self-titled third album follows the successes of “Handwritten” and “Illuminate,” which both topped the Billboard 200 albums chart. The new one should do that as well, with ease.

Like Puth, Mendes has a knack for pop hooks, but “Shawn Mendes” has a quieter, funkier and more soulful vibe. On the sensitive scale, Mendes might actually beat Puth: The 19-year-old is more introspective, fragile and yearning here than the more cocky Puth’s first-rate “Voicenotes.”

The album opens unconventionally for a pop collection with Mendes fighting depression in the Kings of Leon-sounding rocker “In My Blood.”

Mendes gets in a welcome R&B groove for the lovely, aching “Lost in Japan” and goes on to admit self-consciousness in “Nervous” and vulnerability in “Where Were You in the Morning?” The quirky song “Particular Taste” shows a Mendes ready to experiment with song form – and romantic partners.

–Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Snow Patrol

Album: “Wildness”

Grade: A

My goodness, has it really been seven years since the last Snow Patrol album? It has indeed. But you’ll soon know why when you listen through all 10 tracks of “Wildness.”

Lead singer Gary Lightbody looks backward to his youth and forward to his body breaking down, confronts his battles with alcohol and depression, as well as touches on his father’s dementia and explores various ways we get wild. The result is a fantastically ambitious collection of songs, one more direct and intimate than many previous Snow Patrol offerings.

Lightbody experiments with his vocal range and the rest of the band – multi-instrumentalist Johnny McDaid, guitarist Nathan Connolly, bassist Paul Wilson and drummer Jonny Quinn – are in top form under longtime producer Jacknife Lee.

Album opener “Life on Earth” is majestic and grand, both personal and yet universal, carried by a string quartet and drum flourishes. It’s bold and brilliant. It sounds like something we should send out on the next spacecraft to tell aliens what humanity is all about. It’s that good.

A few songs later, it’s just Lightbody and McDaid on piano for the exquisite, stripped-down “What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?” (“What if it hurts like hell?” he asks. “I know the wreckage so well.”) Like many songs on the album, it takes a few unexpected turns.

–Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

CHVRCHES

Album: “Love Is Dead”

Grade: A

In one of those divine twists, two very different artists are offering songs titled “God’s Plan” this year. You probably know the one by Drake. But there’s also one by the Scottish synth pop group CHVRCHES. It may not top the Billboard Hot 100 but it’s still a great, hypnotic gem.

“God’s Plan” is part of the sonically bright but thematically still gloriously dark “Love Is Dead,” the trio’s third album. Those thick, suffocating blankets of synth from 2013’s “The Bones of What You Believe” have been hacked away, offering a cleaner, lighter and, yes, more commercial sound than even their 2015 breakthrough “Every Open Eye.”

But CHVRCHES have always deceived, offering 1980s-influenced pop with depth. Lyrically, the band is at its best here, exploring man’s inhumanity to man while still making high-energy songs.

Nowhere is that more evident than on the synthesizers-and-drum-fueled “Graves,” with its punch-in-the-gut lyrics.

–Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

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