Ed Sheeran, Deadmau5, Phish, Sam Smith top this week's new music

Ed Sheeran (WENN.COM file photo)

Ed Sheeran (WENN.COM file photo)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Ed Sheeran
x


Nice guys don’t always finish last. But let’s face it: Bad boys have more fun. So, on x — which is pronounced Multiply, in keeping with the mathy moniker of 2011’s + — 23-year-old ginger troubawuss Sheeran makes a semi-successful bid to rebrand himself as someone slightly hipper, cooler and sexier. He adds more hip-hop to the mix. He dishes up some Streets-style rapping. He teams up with Rick Rubin and recruits the infallible Pharrell for urban groovers like the Doobie Brothers-meets-Justin Timberlake single Sing. He even sings about drinking tequila, smoking reefer and getting you between the sheets. Naturally, it has about as much street cred as BNL covering NWA. But you suspect even Sheeran knows that — which is why he continues to dish up plenty of the introspective, finger-picked folk-pop tales of love and heartache that made + a radio-friendly unit shifter, and turned Sheeran into the nice guy who finished first. It doesn’t take a genius to do that math.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)



Deadmau5
While(1<2)


Full marks for effort. No points for execution. Canadian EDM superstar Joel Zimmerman tries to move past dance-music cliche — and perhaps earn some respect — on his bloated seventh release. Or perhaps he’s just a big Trent Reznor fan: The 140-minute double-disc set is brimming with NiNian influence, from the ominous overtones and noisy sonics to the elegantly dark keyboard work (and even some remixed Trent fare). Ultimately, none of it matters: The simplistic repetitiveness of the rodent-domed Zimmerman’s uninspired songcraft ensures that try as he might, he remains the mouse that bores.

RATING: 2 (out of 5)



Phish
Fuego


A little more Fumar than Fuego, to be honest. The veteran Vermont jammers’ dozenth studio disc (and first in five years) isn’t quite as fiery as its title suggests. But even at their mellowest, these 10 gently flowing, freewheeling and fanciful cuts feature all the whimsical lyrics, genre-splicing experiments and solo excursions fans know and love, along with lively performances and musical interplay reportedly encouraged by producer Bob Ezrin. So both old fans and new should have no trouble warming up to them.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)



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Sam Smith
In the Lonely Hour


His name is forgettable. His voice is anything but. The 22-year-old Smith is just the latest entry in the U.K.’s endless line of sensitive soul-pop boys. But his debut disc is slightly stickier than most, thanks to the ear-catching array of EDM and hip-hop sprinkled amid his creamy, vulnerable crooning.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

First Aid Kit
Stay Gold


Sunsets and honey and warmth and wildflowers. That’s the sort of gold Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are referring to on their third release. And what they’re channeling on this soothingly seductive, time-travelling salve of ’50s country, ’60s folk and baroque pop, ’70s soft rock and more. It’ll cure your ills.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Camper Van Beethoven
El Camino Real


What goes North must come South. A year after paying tribute to Northern California with La Costa Perdida, curmudgeonly singer-guitarist David Lowery and his reconstituted CVB celebrate SoCal with this 55-minute offering. Not surprisingly, it’s packed with summery melodies, sharp hooks and even traces of lush Beach Boys surf-pop — but still comes off weirder and shadier than its predecessor, thanks to Lowery’s jaundiced eye and latter-day Iggy Pop delivery. You can always count on him to keep it real.

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

Fatboy Slim
Bem Brasil


World Cup fever meets dance fever as superstar DJ and football fan Norman Cook spins a 110-minute dance mix laced with upbeat Latin grooves and pounding percussion. Ole ole ole!

RATING: 3.5 (out of 5)

The Bombay Royale
The Island of Dr. Electrico


Bollywood goes Down Under. And over the top. Hailing from Melbourne, clad in racoon-style bandit masks and sporting pseudonyms like The Mysterious Lady, The Tiger, The Skipper and The Kungfu Dentis, this 10-piece combo create vintage-sounding Indian-movie soundtracks from a grab-bag of psychedelic sitar-rock, cheeseball disco, curry-flavoured lyrics and keening co-ed vocals. Kitschy cool.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

John Mayall
A Special Life


Can your 58th album be special? Well, sometimes. The 80-year-old British blues godfather doesn’t change his tune much, staying in his 12-bar comfort zone. But some Cajun accordion from C.J. Chenier breathes some new life into the proceedings.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Ben Frost
A U R O R A


Space is beautiful. And terrifying. Ditto this high-tech fusion of supernova star crunch, solar-flare intensity and claustrophobic dark matter from Iceland-based composer Frost. It’s full of stars.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Jeff Tweedy
Mountain Jam


Glenn Kotche
Adventureland


Two new dispatches from Wilcoworld. First and foremost: Mountain Jam, a no-frills live document of a recent festival gig by frontman Jeff Tweedy and his solo band (including teenage son Spencer), playing a career-spanning set that debuts 12 mellow, rootsy numbers from his upcoming Sukierae album. Last but not least: Glenn Kotche’s Adventureland, on which the bathroom-fixture percussionist recruits Kronos Quartet for a sojourn in an impeccably crafted landscape of avant-garde instrumental minimalism for chamber ensembles.

RATING: 3.5/3 (out of 5)

Black Stone Cherry
Magic Mountain


Hey kids! Want to ride the Southern Post-Grunge Stoner Boogie Monster Machine Mark IV? Well, grow out your mullet, put on your Skynyrd shirt and climb aboard. But remember, you must be this high to enter.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Morrissey
Vauxhall and I: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition


Morrissey will not be ignored. And sometimes shouldn’t be. Like this time. The Smiths refugee’s 1994 release boasts not only his biggest single (The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get) but also some of his most self-assured and superb performances. Like predecessors in the Moz reissue series, it comes accompanied by a lively concert from the era.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Helix
Bastard of the Blues


Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40. Four decades down their road, leather-lunged frontman Brian Vollmer and the mostly reconstituted Helix stay true to their roots, filling their 13th studio release with the same brand of fist-pumping arena-rock and dark-angel power-balladry they’ve been delivering since Day 1. Give them an A for consistency.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Trash Talk
No Peace


No retreat, no surrender. On their fifth album, the Sacramento hardcore crew remain brutally brisk as ever, jamming 16 tracks into 31 minutes. But their more effective use of space, dynamics and pacing — not to mention increasingly discernible lyrics and stronger hooks — shows they’re not just speeding forward, they’re getting somewhere.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Nazareth
Rock ’n’ Roll Telephone


It’s last call for singer Dan McCafferty, who has hung up his mic after 45 years due to health issues. Fortunately, his corroded Bon Scott pipes are still up to snuff on this swan song. Which is slightly more than you can say for most of these lunkheaded riff-rockers and drippy sock-hop ballads.

RATING: 2.5 (out of 5)

Road Hammers
Wheels


The Viking Truckers
Rocking the Country


There’s more than one way to keep on truckin’. The patriotic route: The fourth full-length from Jason McCoy and his Road Hammers, who put the hammer down with hard-driving highway-star hits (from a barnburning I’ve Been Everywhere to a hick-hopped Hillbilly Highway), along with some like-minded originals. The international option: Sweden’s Viking Truckers, who cover some of the same terrain with more pedal-steel twang, lickety-split chicken-pickin’ and honky-tonk authenticity than you might expect.

RATING: 3.5/3.5 (out of 5)

2 Chainz
Freebase


Wiz Khalifa
28 Grams


The long and short of it. Atlanta’s 2 Chainz and Philly’s Wiz Khalifa take opposite approaches to their latest trap mixtapes, with the former offering a quick hit with 23 minutes of darkly aggressive fare, and the latter meandering through a 28-track trip whose buzz wears off far too soon.

RATING: 3.5/3 (out of 5)

IN THE PIPELINE

July 8

Blackhawk
Brothers of the Southland

Braid 
No Coast

Chicago
Chicago XXXVI: Now

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
CSNY 1974 Box Set

Dirty Heads
Sound of Change

Dream Theater
The Studio Albums 1992-2011 Box Set

Steve Earle
Live in Nashville 1995

La Roux
Trouble in Paradise

The Mastersons
Good Luck Charm

Richard Marx
Beautiful Goodbye

John Mellencamp
John Mellencamp Performs Trouble No More Live at Town Hall

Ted Nugent
Shutup & Jam!

Beth Orton
Central Reservation: Expanded Edition

Sia
1000 Forms of Fear

Theory of a Deadman
SaVages


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