|Kele Okereke, singer of the indie rock band Bloc Party performs on stage during the 21st edition of the Vieilles Charrues music festival on July 20, 2012 in Carhaix-Plouguer, western France. AFP PHOTO FRED TANNEAU
This week: Bloc Party get restarted, Lobos rekindle Kiko, Cooder rocks the vote, Loverboy sweat to the oldies, Powter sees the light and more.
4 stars out of 5
Absence makes the Bloc grow stronger. Following a break in the wake of 2008's electronica-influenced Intimacy, singer-guitarist Kele Okereke and his bandmates reconvene and reconnect with their inner indie-rockers. All those synths and beatboxes are dialled way back in favour of the raw energy, wiry tension and noisy intensity of their earlier fare. A much-welcome return to form.
Download: So He Begins to Lie; Kettling
Kiko: 20th Anniversary Edition
4.5 stars out of 5
Two decades later, Kiko hasn't aged a day. Los Lobos' pivotal and groundbreaking ninth album -- a dark, dreamlike and deeply personal examination of love and loss that expanded the L.A. rockers' Latino-based sonic palette -- remains as vibrant and moving as ever. This anniversary reissue comes with some demos and bonus tracks; there's also a suburb 2006 doc and live DVD.
Download: Kiko & the Lavender Moon; Two Janes
4 stars out of 5
Sometimes timely beats timeless. On his 15th disc, increasingly ornery singer-guitarist Cooder works the topical vein he tapped on 2011's Pull Up Some Dust & Sit Down. Here the subject is U.S. politics, with tales of presidential blues, Guantanamo and Mitt Romney's dog told with sardonic wit and set again his rustic slide-guitar and musical anachronism. I approve this message.
Download: Mutt Romney Blues; Cold Cold Feeling
Rock 'N' Roll Revival
1.5 stars out of 5
"We gotta get the magic back," insists singer Mike Reno on the title track to Loverboy's first album in five years. Fair enough. But in the end it's far easier said than done -- the CanCon pop-rockers cut just three new songs for this Bob Rock-produced disc, then filled the rest of the space with inferior remakes of nine old hits. Sounds like somebody's still working for the weekend.
Download: Rock 'N' Roll Revival; No Tomorrow
Turn on the Lights
2 stars out of 5
Let's be honest: The lights went out on Daniel Powter a long time ago. About the very minute that his No. 1 tune Bad Day slipped off the charts back in 2006. Six years, one forgotten followup and a rehab stint later, the wimpy singer-songwriter returns with another generic batch of upbeat falsetto-pop ditties and ballads that no one is going to care about. See you at the casino, buddy.
Download: Cupid; The Day We Never Met
Now & Never
2.5 stars out of 5
Comeback albums are always tough. Comebacks 25 years after your last disc -- and four after the death of a key member -- are nigh on impossible. Give the surviving core of Platinum Blonde points for this surprisingly listenable return; these shimmery, anthemic pop-rockers revisit (and sometimes retouch) their glammy new-wave roots without seeming desperate or dated. Go figure.
Download: Valentine; Future Dance
The Midsummer Station
3.5 stars out of 5
Timing is everything. And the song Good Time, Owl City mastermind Adam Young's duet with pop trifle Carly Rae Jepsen, could hardly have been timed better -- it's guaranteed to bring hordes of young girls to the party (not that he needs help in that regard). Here's hoping some stick around for the rest of his expertly crafted, sweetly introspective and eternally Death Cabby synth-pop.
Download: Dreams & Disasters; Good Time
Mondo Sex Head
3 stars out of 5
Zombie rises again. But not under his own power. The cartoon-metal monster is back with yet another remix album -- the third of his career. That must be some sort of record; as for the record itself, it's another OK but inessential pastiche of revamped oldies from the likes of Korn's Jon Davis (who brings the dubstep), Chino Moreno (with Crosses) and Photek. More filler than thriller.
Download: Thunder Kiss '65 (JDevil Number of the Beast Mix)
3.5 stars out of 5
Follow your nose. These Brooklyn experimentalists hyped this third album with an online scavenger hunt. It's a spot-on analogy for the music, which unveils itself as a jumble of random styles and sounds -- Princely funk, pop, psychedelia, Middle Eastern beats and more. Take a little time, however, and the pieces arrange themselves into understated treasures. Smells like a winner.
Download: Henrietta; Devil & the Deed
Fight or Flight
The Devil You Know
Rickie Lee Jones
Havoc & Bright Light