Here are review of recent music releases:
•“Someday” Susanna Hoffs
Don't be fooled by the gloomy-looking cover: Listening to Bangles member Susanna Hoffs' solo album is a bit like walking through a flower patch on a sunny spring day, circa 1967. The birds are chirping. Everyone you see smiles. Everything's groovy.
That's only a problem if you're on a sugar-free diet, or crave the wail of a spurned lover. Even when Hoffs sings, “ooh, it hurts” on “Regret,” it hurts so good. Hoffs' musical reference point has always been the 1960s, and here this California girl and producer Mitchell Froom dive fully into it.
The horns and string arrangements recall heroes like Burt Bacharach and Dusty Springfield without repeating them. Hoffs indulges her love for pure pop and, with co-writer Andrew Brassell, avoids cringe-worthy material.
This is a one-dimensional disc, to be sure. The signature harmonies of the Bangles are missed, as is the grit Matthew Sweet brings to the “Sid & Susie” collaborations with Hoffs. But if it's a walk through the flower patch you want, you could do worse.
On the cover of his 10th album, “Life Is Good,” the urban troubadour known as Nas is dressed in a white suit, glumly holding his ex-wife Kelis' green wedding dress — the only thing left behind after the couple's publicly acrimonious divorce. By way of his art, Nas both washes his laundry in public and shows he has moved on.
Producers No I.D. and Salaam Remi give this very personal record an aura of nostalgia, a throwback to the golden age of hip-hop, by using classic beats. Collaborations with artist like Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross and Swizz Beatz and Nas' solos arrange themselves into a coherent necklace made of discreet gems. Old mixes with new, noir enters the flow and the lyrics are tinged with both vulnerability and brutality.
Nas is the same master wordsmith as he was when he first bowled over critics with his 1994 debut “Illmatic.” He tackles thug life, chrematistics and the pursuit of status, yet shows signs of growth by considering more personal topics like parenthood, love and his relationship with his celebrity.
Songs like “Daughters,” where he raps about his own real-life parenting struggles with his teenage daughter or “Bye Baby,” where he addresses the breakdown of his marriage and his subsequent bleeding heart, show a touching self-awareness. “Cherry Wine” featuring the late Amy Winehouse paints him in a surprising light where he is unshackled by the stereotypical rap views of women. Nas manages to make a clean break with the past by submersing himself and us in it.
Somewhere in the isolated foothills of northern California, there must be something magical in the water. How else to explain the musical culmination of a house-sitting stint that took three college classmates and turned them into Milo Greene, a very new and very good band with a self-titled debut album?
To be clear, there is no man named Milo Greene — it was merely a device concocted in the band's early days to make it appear as though they had a manager. They're hardly faking it on this album, a tapestry of richly reverbed guitar, inventive drum work and something sorely missing amid today's morass of arrange-by-numbers rock music — a beautifully delivered concept.
That concept is to present their music absent of the disturbances of a frenetic society that closes in from all sides. They admittedly aimed for a pastoral feel and it shows on wind-swept tracks like “What's The Matter” and “Perfectly Aligned.”
Milo Greene, now a five-piece outfit, is often carried here by lush vocals from Marlana Sheetz. She hits each note on “Son My Son” with perfect pitch, yet with just enough throaty delivery to keep the lyrics alive and seeping with emotion.
Some songs have a jazz cadence, while others are tinged with bluegrass. Each approach carries with it something contemplative about isolation amid bustle. The band saves the best for last with the final track, “Autumn Tree.” The harmonies are full and focused and the melody swells as the song goes on. For a band that didn't exist four years ago, they sound like they've been singing this forever.