Nine Inch Nails, Neko Case and John Legend Lead New Release
Album Of The Week: Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks (Columbia): Trent Reznor feels old, which is great because some of us have been waiting for him to grow up for years. Whether his sound matured is another matter. Nine Inch Nails' new album is the musical equivalent of the lyrics on Eminem's Recovery, a whiz kid rediscovering his ambitions through the lens of no longer needing to be the best/biggest/loudest/most shocking. The result? Kinda sexy actually. Palm-muted Thom Yorke-style laptronica kicking the walls with My Bloody Valentine-style detuning. Subtler sound effects. Voice nearly content. Reznor's fatherhood and marriage are as integral to the piece as Jay Z's on Magna Carta Holy Grail. But Reznor will never lose his regular-guy sneer, no matter how many times he makes Lindsay Buckingham overdub.
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (ANTI-): "I'm a man/ You have to deal with me," sings the hyper-intelligent Neko Case on the reasonably rocking "Man," whose belated feminism in interviews is more than welcome for contextualizing this tuneful, clever, unconventional album. From her Lennonesque taste for the bizarre ("I shot him through his jelly eye") to the confessional ("My brain makes drugs to keep me slow"), the woman who's now sang the word "pharaoh" twice in ten years is always engaging and never settles for the conventional singer-songwriter bull, which leads to lines like "you never hold it at the right angle" being sung as a hook, and occasionally those irresistible politics seeping in. Opening question: "Hey little girl would you like to be/ The king's pet or the king?"
John Legend – Love in the Future (G.O.O.D.): This openhearted, expansive thing is John Legend's most generous melodically and—if "Have a baby even if the world is crazy" or "What would I do without your smart mouth?" is any indication—his most thoughtful lyrically. "Open Your Eyes" remakes the tune his padre Common sampled for his semi-famous "The Light" 14 years ago, while "Who Do We Think We Are" is so liquidelic you almost expect his stupid sales-buffering guest Rick Ross to ask if anyone's ever been to Electric Ladyland. Legend conceives soul as a duty to arrange a melody to its fullest potential. Honest work if there ever was. See what other new releases made the list.
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