Justin Timberlake has come a long way ﾖ from his curly pube-haired days as one of the cheesy boybanders of N Sync to a successful film actor with his own solo singing career. And what a career it’s been! And now the SexyBack singer has returned for another round of R&B with his third solo studio album, The 20/20 Experience. We’ve waited five years for more JT tunes and it’s been worth the wait, we say! There’s already talk of a follow-up album based on unreleased recordings. There’s a lot to love on The 20/20 Experience. From its funky cover to the 10 (12 if you’ve got the deluxe edition) extremely cool and sexy beats, it’s an R&B/hip hop fan’s wet dream. Interestingly, the songs are long; Mirrors, the second single, comes in at just over eight minutes and most of the tracks aren’t far behind. The result is a heavyweight listening experience. We dig the first two singles Suit & Tie and the soppier Mirrors, but also recommend Don’t Hold the Wall, Pusher Love Girl, Tunnel Vision and Let The Groove Get In, which has got a fun, upbeat Latino backing track.
USELESS FACT:Mirrors is said to be a love song inspired by JT’s wife, actress Jessica Biel. Cute hey!
RATING: 8 out of 10
LCNVL ﾖ FASTER, LONGER MIXTAPE
The gay community’s second favourite twins are back after a long absence. The Locnville boys have changed their name (they’re now styling themselves Twitter-style as LCNVL), moved from Cape Town to Joburg, grown up and beefed up, and come back with a new sound: dubstep. Well, new for them at least. Good news comes in twos, so here it is: they still sing in perfect unison and are still cute. In fact, they may even be cuter now that they’re out of their teens. But on to the tunes! Faster, Longer Mixtape is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, the two-disc album is part mixtape, featuring some of the tunes that the boys currently love, but it’s also got some brand-new tracks, most notably the dancey new single Closer. Disc one is the mixtape and features mostly dubstep and house tracks, some originals and some remixes of their songs and other artists like Dizzee Rascal, Michael Jackson and DJ Muggs. While disc two is all Locnville (sorry, LCNVL). The dubstep influence is everywhere and the beats are harder and faster than what they’ve previously delivered. This time around, LCNVL sounds less commercial, more indie, more underground and a lot more clubby.
USELESS FACT: Watch LCNVL’s awesome Closer video at the end of this page.
RATING: 7 out of 10
JEWEL ﾖ GREATEST HITS
Keepin’ it country; that’s our Jewel. The American singer/songwriter turns 38 in May, the perfect time to release some of her greatest hits, plus chuck in a few new songs too. If you’re not a Jewel fan, we doubt her melodic blend of country and pop will grab you by the short and curlies. But you’d be missing out on a collection of hits that spans all the way back to the late 1990s. It’s kinda like a bride’s to-do list: something old, something new, something borrowed (but, in this case, nothing blue…) Jewel’s been in the music biz for decades and she hasn’t lost her gorgeous, powerful voice. Greatest Hits gives you her best-known songs like Who Will Save Your Soul (the song that made her famous!), Foolish Games, Standing Still and You Were Meant For Me. There’s new stuff in the form of new single, Two Hearts Breaking, and the ‘something borrowed’ is artfully reworked versions of You Were Meant For Me (duetting here with country girl-group Pistol Annies) and Foolish Games (a Kelly Clarkson collab track).
USELESS FACT: Jewel is her real name. The singer’s surname is the less-romantic-sounding Kilcher. No wonder she Madonna-fied her moniker…
RATING: 7 out of 10
DEPECHE MODE ﾖ DELTA MACHINE
What goes around comes around and the 80s is back in vogue at the moment. From the revived TV series Dallas to 80s synthpop releases, the shoulder pad and big hair decade is making a return. Musically, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but those big, electronic synthpop sounds from 30 years ago are the basis of a lot of modern sounds (yes, you, dance music DJs!) so when one of the biggies, Depeche Mode, releases new music, it’s worth taking note. Delta Machine is the English band’s 13th studio album and it’s jam-packed with synth sounds. This isn’t ground-breaking new stuff (important to note as, in their heyday they were regarded as a fresh sound) so you won’t hear anything as catchy as Personal Jesus. But it’s still got plenty radio-friendliness to the 13 tracks. Definitely listen to first single Heaven, plus Soothe My Soul and the chaotic Soft Touch/Raw Nerve. Lyrically, the band is in a good place and their vocals are great too, but what ultimately lets them down in the end is the disconnectedness and lack of flow. Listen to the whole album and you’ll hear that things, sadly, don’t always mesh.
USELESS FACT: Lead vocalist David Gahan is a recovering heroin addict who’s survived four brushes with death. Hardcore man!
RATING: 6 out of 10
HURTS ﾖ EXILE
From 80s revival to 80s-inspired, Hurts is also bringing back the 80s sound, but with a modern, edgy twist. The British two-piece boyband (consisting of Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson) isn’t just easy on the eyes; they’re good for the ears too. They rose to fame with their 2010 debut album Happiness, which spawned seven singles, including Stay and Wonderful Life. And now they’re back with their follow-up, which is just as simply titled Exile. Yup, the lads are fond of their one-word song names… Technically, Hurts’ sound is synthpop meets new wave, a hard-to-define kind of pop-like punk music. Second time around Hurts is still big on the dreamy, anthemic synth-like pop but they’ve added some electronic rock to the mix, for an updated edge to what they do. You’ve probably already heard the single Miracle on radio, and if you liked it, you’ll no doubt enjoy the rest of the 12 songs, including title track Exile, Sandman, Only You and Somebody To Die For. Each listen seems to unearth more of their skilled, poetic songwriting, so keep it on repeat. I certainly am… USELESS FACT: If it wasn’t for booze, there’d be no Hurts. Theo and Adam met outside a Manchester nightclub in 2005 when mutual friends got into a fight. Too drunk to join in, they started talking about music instead and the rest, as they say, is history.
RATING: 8 out of 10
BASTILLE ﾖ BAD BLOOD
British rock band Bastille may be new to the scene, but you should be hearing their name a lot more as the singles off their debut album Bad Blood, start rolling out onto the radio airwaves. They had an immediate number-one hit when their album (funky cover by the way, guys!) dropped in the UK in March and went straight to the top of the charts. Not hard to see (and hear) why: their indie rock sound is very on-trend right now. Think Mumford & Sons but less twangy. Their breakout hit is the highly catchy and fun Pompeii, which has been picked up by every radio station from Manchester to Midrand. And the rest of the 12-track album is just as fun. Sure it’s rock, but it’s not heavy Guns & Roses or too-light commercial fare either. We loved the electro/alternative rock vibes on stand-out tracks like Things We Lost In The Fire, Bad Blood, These Streets, Laura Palmer and the album’s slower, more down-tempo first single Overjoyed. Can’t wait for the follow-up release!
USELESS FACT: Bastille take their name from French memorial day Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14, which just happens to be the birthday of found/lead singer Dan Smith.