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Music Review: Gord Downie - Introduce Yerself

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Last summer, Canada tuned in to watch the Tragically Hip’s last concert and bid adieu to its charismatic poetic frontman. Now Gord says goodbye with this poignant collection of 23 deeply personal songs. Like David Bowie’s and Leonard Cohen’s final recordings, the album is almost unbearably sad and made more powerful because the artist knew the end was coming. “Each song is about a person,” Gord explained before his death from brain cancer on Oct. 17. Some numbers are love letters to childhood buddies, former girlfriends and his bandmates in the Hip. “Bedtime,” a tender piano lullaby, describes the nightly ritual of putting one of his four children to sleep. “You and Me and the B’s,” with per...
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Music Review: Neil Young - Hitchhiker

Music Review: Neil Young - Hitchhiker
His Harvest album was the biggest-seller of 1972, but Neil wasn’t happy. “‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road,” he later wrote. “Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.” The ditch meant a trio of darker, abrasive albums that left some fans craving for more acoustic songs. This 10-song collection, recorded in 1976 but left in Neil’s vaults until now, sounds a lot like a companion to Harvest . It features stripped-down versions of “Pocahontas” and “Powderfinger” that he later recorded with Crazy Horse. “Campaigner” and “Human Highway” sound relevant all over again with their messages about political deception and mean spiritedness. The former cites Richard Ni...
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Music Review: Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Music Review: Arcade Fire - Everything Now
How did Arcade Fire become a global band that mattered? By addressing big questions thoughtfully and passionately. Funeral examined death, Neon Bible tackled modern religion and The Suburbs took a hard look at urban life. On its last album, 2013’s Reflektor , the Montreal band led by the husband-and-wife team of Win Butler and Régine Chassange, dialed down the philosophical intensity and adopted an arsenal of grooves from synth-pop and disco to Haitian rara and Jamaican dub. For its fifth release Arcade Fire aims to marry the two, mixing earnest social commentary with dancefloor-ready beats. The title track is an ABBA-like number about consumption and the need for instant gratification. On “...
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Music Review: Lana Del Rey - Lust for Life

Music Review: Lana Del Rey - Lust for Life
By now, Del Rey's persona and esthetic are well established: a femme fatale who revels in moody numbers about bad boys. It’s been a successful formula where the 32-year-old singer’s blank stare reflected her music’s ennui. So what are we to make of Del Rey’s smiling face on her latest album? Has she found contentment? While the New York City native is still mired in toxic relationships, her concerns now about have more to do with the state of the planet. “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” finds her asking “Is it the end of America?” and “God Bless America—And All the Beautiful Women In It” is an ode to feminism. Best of all, there’s something close to joyful abandon on the Beatlesqu...
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Music Review: Alison Moyet - Other

Music Review: Alison Moyet - Other
She’s one of the greatest female singers ever to come out of the U.K. Six years before Adele was born, Alison Moyet was topping the charts with electropop duo Yaz. Blessed with a bluesy, soulful voice, Moyet went on to a highly successful solo career, exploring new styles with hits songs, including “All Cried Out” and “Invisible,” while selling over 23 million albums. A mother of three, the Grammy-nominated singer returned to her electronica roots with 2013’s excellent The Minutes . Working again with producer Guy Sigsworth (Björk, Madonna), Moyet continues making adventurous music on her ninth studio album. Some of the songs, like “Reassuring Pinches,” recall the meaningful electropop of “O...
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Music Review: Jay-Z - 4:44

Music Review: Jay-Z - 4:44
Jay-Z resides comfortably in the palace of hip-hop: a groundbreaking rapper and label owner, with 21 Grammy Awards and sales of more than 100 million records to his name. As Beyoncé’s husband, he is also one half of pop’s royal couple. But all has not been well on the homefront, if we’re to believe the superstars’ artistic output. His alleged marital infidelity became grist for Queen Bey’s mill on her hit 2016 album Lemonade. Then there was elevator video footage showing an altercation with sister-in-law Solange. Jay-Z addresses both subjects on his 13th solo album. Confessional and apologetic, it’s an impressive mark of maturation from the man born Shawn Carter. Ove...
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Music Review: Lorde - Melodrama

Music Review: Lorde - Melodrama
When the “Royals” singer first exploded on the charts with her debut album, Pure Heroine , she was only 17. Even then, she seemed much older. Now, four years on and with two Grammy Awards under her belt, Lorde (a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O’Connor) is back with more of her quirky, wise-beyond-her-years pop songs. The New Zealand singer-songwriter’s latest documents the current state of her life—wrestling with mixed emotions as she overcomes the loss of her first love and faces up to being single. She’s essentially journaling her personal dramas (the title is a playful knock on herself) and setting them to sounds that mix dance music, hip-hop and classic-pop influences. The album opens with “Green Lig...
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