On the Record
Robyn’s 2010 trilogy ends with a sort-of compilation of the past mixed in with the new. The set, which includes five songs each from Parts 1 and 2, tosses in five brand-new tracks. Unless you need the complete set, this one will serve you fine. The former teen pop star has hit the charts hard in 2010, being a real highlight in a year dominated by music that has been terribly tacky, utterly bland, or both—hey, Ke$sha, enjoying your 15 minutes? The latest single, “Indestructible,” continues Robyn’s hot streak for the year. It shows a bit more pop than the hard-edged disco she made earlier in the year. That sense of pop continues through the new tunes, which may give us an idea of where she’s going in the future. For the past, all the joys from the early releases are here, from “Fembot” to “U Should Know Better” to “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do.”
Gold: Greatest Hits
Confession time: The first album I ever bought was a copy of ABBA’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2. Maybe I was sending signals to myself, but while my elementary school classmates were digging to Kiss Dynasty, I was at home rocking out to “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Now, 30-some years later, here we have another packaging of pretty much those same songs. The glossy Swedish pop is intact, and if you have any of the past versions of the album, you know the deal. The appeal of this one is a bonus DVD of the band’s pre-MTV promotional videos. It not only provides another showcase for the music, but also gives us all a scary insight into 1970s European fashion. Really, the disco-cum-Scandinavian sweaters worn in the “Waterloo” video belong in a bad-taste museum. That aside, if you don’t need to see what the ABBA folks looked like three decades years ago, just keep your current Gold.
Cee Lo Green
Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” was the viral single of the summer—and an absolutely brilliant use of obscenity. The clean version, “Forget You,” just doesn’t cut it, because so much of the song’s pleasure comes from having a tune that sounds like it could have been drawn from the 1960s, fueled by such a bald, direct, and not-ready-for-the-airwaves lyric. The Ladykiller is full of catchy songs and endearing performances that—while not as brilliant as the leadoff track—are certainly an endearing antidote to the zero-personality pop dominating the charts right now. On the album, Green reaches back across decades of soul and R&B music for musical backdrops, evoking the synth-heavy 1980s one minute, and then reaching for ’70s-style strings the next. Through it all, he showcases an able voice that flexes easily along the higher register, giving the album just an extra touch of timelessness and class.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The ego has landed for album number five. After a couple of years of publicity and controversy—mainly fake controversy, but, hey, TMZ and the like need something to talk about—West returns to what he actually does best: making excellent music. While overstuffed, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an able follow-up to the sterling 808s and Heartbreak. In place of that album’s spare style and confessional tone, we get a set loaded with guest stars; familiar samples deployed in unique ways (including King Crimson, something I never expected to say about a West album); and lots of talking from West himself. The main topic, not surprisingly, is our hero. A bevy of superguests—name another album with Jay Z, Elton John, and Bon Iver—give us a break, though never for too long. At times, the gloss becomes too much, but it usually is leavened by a turn of phrase or a particularly clever sample.