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CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | AUGUST 25, 2009 7:05 AM

Break through my heart

Colbie Caillat: Breakthrough
*** 1/2 out of *****

Something must have happened in Colbie Caillat’s love life to create enough tension for her to dedicate nearly every track to words that drip of hapless hope, saccharine sadness, and laborious love. Her second album, Breakthrough, is laden with lyrics about making a relationship work despite fights and initial instincts to give up when times get rough. Sure, the words get monotonous at times, but Caillat’s voice is strong and beautiful enough for the words to almost not matter. Almost.

Caillat, a longtime singer/songwriter best known for her track “Bubbly,” was a nominee for Favorite Breakthrough Artist at the American Music Awards in 2008, and she was also up for a Teen Choice Award this year for Best New Artist. Her first album, Coco, sprang her from an unsigned artist with only a Myspace to her moniker to a place at Republic Records.

The Malibu native’s vocals are absolutely mesmerizing — in fact, her voice really pushes the album from mere mediocrity to one that is definitely worth a listen. The rich tunes, most notably “Fearless,” the album’s single “Fallin’ For You,” and title-track “Break Through,” are swimming in Caillat’s silky voice, though they almost carry a country feel.

But the standout song on the album, “Lucky,” the singer’s collaboration with Jason Mraz (originally released in spring 2008), elevates Breakthrough to a higher stratosphere, mostly because of its notably different sound.

If Caillat’s album has one large fault, it’s the lack of differentiation between the tracks — the artist’s voice blends together almost too much from song to song. Though her vocals can, and indeed do, carry the album, it would have been nice to hear more innovative instrumentation. Although melodies change slightly, it’s evident that the album’s sole focus is on Caillat’s voice rather than “breakthrough” songwriting.

Rachael’s Picks: “Lucky,” “Fearless,” and “I Won’t”

— by Rachael Lander

Not just another thrash band

Municipal Waste: Massive Aggressive
**** out of *****

If one thing’s for sure, it’s that crossover act Municipal Waste knows how to throw a party. The righteous dudes in the band even wrote a concept album about slamming brews and skipping class with 2007’s The Art of Partying.

However, just like a college student about to enter her or his senior year, there comes a point of maturation. That is the case with the Waste’s newest album Massive Aggressive, which sees the band writing on topics outside of the realm of drunkenness and becoming all the better for it — the album is thrash-metal perfection.

Municipal Waste breaks out an arsenal of mosh-riffs that pay tribute to bands such as D.R.I. and Nuclear Assault while still maintaining a sound of its own. The group has a reputation of having intense live shows full of shark-costumed stage-diving and inflatable beach balls — and Massive Aggressive is the closest the band has come to capturing the live vibe.

Songs like “Divine Blasphemer” will have listeners fanatically fist-pumping and breaking out denim jackets loaded with old-school metal patches. The two-minute song is dripping with chugging guitars and even a brief melodic lead.

Vocalist Tony Foresta is in top form on such songs as “Wolves of Chernobyl” and the album’s title track, which, like the rest of the album, feature repetitious shout-along choruses that beat (and beat and beat) into the listener’s head.

The band’s lyrics and song titles are as clever as always — as seen on the track “Upside Down Church.” The band recently received press attention for burning a miniature cardboard church on stage in Norway while playing the song. (The group is in no way anti-religion — it’s all just in the fun of the music.)

The band recently recorded a video for the song Wrong Answer — which is definitely single material. Foresta sings of a game show gone bad in which the contestant plays for his life. The mob chorus yells, “You’ve got the wrong answer,” and the song moves at a rapid pace, even for a speed-metal band such as Municipal Waste.

Massive Aggressive comes to an epic end with “Acid Sentence” — which features machine-gun riffing and melodic harmonies, making it one of the band’s best songs of all time. Municipal Waste is the master of the new wave of thrash metal, and Massive Aggressive shows that the best is yet to come.

Eric’s Picks: “Divine Blasphemer,” “Upside Down Church,” “Wrong Answer,” “Acid Sentence”

— by Eric Andersen

Willie Nelson meets Frank Sinatra

Willie Nelson : American Classic
**** 1/2 out of *****

Willie Nelson may be best known as a country singer, but to say this was his exclusive style would be to overlook his 1978 album Stardust, which was composed entirely of standards. After Stardust’s critical acclaim, Nelson returned to the country-music scene and produced another three decades of subpar country before returning to jazz. American Classic leaves listeners wondering why Nelson doesn’t make a permanent transition.

One of American Classic’s clear standout tracks is “Fly Me To The Moon.” Like Frank Sinatra’s classic version, Nelson’s variation retains a moderate, dance tempo but adds an energetic electric piano that’s reminiscent of Ray Charles’ playing style.

Just as the electric piano gives “Fly Me to the Moon” motion, the female guests on two other tracks gives American Classic a full, less monotonous sound. “If I Had You” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are similarly noteworthy, featuring collaborations with vocalists Diana Krall and Norah Jones, respectively. The soft, gentle voices of Nelson’s peers provide a pleasing contrast to the country legend’s signature deep, gruff vocals.

The bluesy “Since I Fell For You” provides some much needed variation from the jazzier cuts on American Classic, and the use of harmonica gives the album’s instrumentation overall variety. Even within the jazzier pieces, Nelson manages to give them his own flavor. The recurrent electric piano on “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” updates Fats Waller’s original track for 2009.

The only thing that this album could have used is a stronger opening number. A good opener grabs the listeners’ attention and encourages them to hear the album out, but “Nearness of You” simply doesn’t cut it. The track might be just as good as the rest of the album, but it is definitely in the wrong spot in the batting order.

American Classic may eventually measure up to the success of Stardust, which will, one hopes, lead Nelson to realize that he missed his true calling.

Nick’s Picks: “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

— by Nick Fetty


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