Vampire Weekend

Album: Vampire Weekend

Label: XL Recordings

Release Date: Jan. 29

**** 1/2 (out of five)


These four Columbia grads combine African influences with light pop melodies and the spirited energy of the English Beat into an irresistible musical melting pot. Online buzz swirling around the New York band has compared it to Paul Simon and The Talking Heads, and Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut has surpassed all the hype and expectations. Charming harmonies, snappy guitar riffs, vintage keyboard sounds and a smart, worldly lyricism make for a highly addictive pop concoction.

k.d. Lang

Album: Watershed

Label: Nonesuch

Release Date: Feb. 5

**** (out of five)

Instead of kicking the doors off her reported eight-year writer’s block, k.d. Lang returns gracefully with Watershed. An airy but ornate sonic atmosphere is presented where banjo and steel guitar signatures waltz to and fro with symphonic suites and drum-machine subtleties. It all emits a sultry sophistication that is well-suited to the deeper reaches of Lang’s vocal twang. There really isn’t a drop of fun to be heard, but if your pop music tastes include serene introspection, then Watershed is for you.

The Pack A.D.

Album: Tintype

Label: Mint Record

Release Date: Jan. 22

**** (out of five)

Hell hath no fury like the Vancouver duo of Becky Black and Maya Miller. With only a drum kit and a guitar, these ladies play garage blues with spellbinding ferocity. From the first eruption of feedback, Tintype delivers one primitive punch to the gut after another. Black sings as if she’s possessed by Janis Joplin while Miller pounds the drums savagely. This is the blues in its most raw form — stripped down, electrified, amplified and feminized.

Sheryl Crow

Album: Detours

Label: A&M Records

Release Date: Feb. 5

*** 1/2 (out of five)

If some detours in your day are getting you down, maybe give Sheryl Crow’s latest disc a spin. The bombastic beats and playful twang of Crow’s yesteryears sustain an impressive range of straight-ahead tunes, largely avoiding any adult contemporary blandness. Crow’s resilient spirit and voice coupled with the lovelorn balladry and bouncy guitar pop can be uplifting, like the soaring standout Shine Over Babylon. The soapbox sentiments can get a tad overbearing but the well-crafted nuances make these detours worth following.

Jack Johnson

Album: Sleep Through The Static

Label: Brushfire Records

Release Date: Feb. 5

*** (out of five)

Fans concerned about reports of a darker new sound from Jack Johnson can breathe easy — rumours of his death-metal demise have been greatly exaggerated. Really, the old formula is largely in tact. His restful voice sashays along with sedated rhythms and breezy acoustic sounds — there’s just a dash of electric guitar, keyboards and sombre lyrics added for effect. The new results are mixed, with some lumbering dub and wispy soul echoes. It should also be noted this sunny album was recorded using 100 per cent solar energy.

Lenny Kravitz

Album: It Is Time For A Love

Revolution Label: Virgin

Release Date: Feb. 5

** (out of five)

For someone who has built a career on empty, hyper-stylized, commercially accessible fashion rock, the hook is everything. Despite lyrics drenched in hilarious rock jingoism and at least one mandatory guitar wank-off per song, Love Revolution delivers more inadvertent laughs than hooks. “It is time for a Love Revolution,” Kravitz declares. “It is time for a new constitution.” Indeed, this is about as memorable a punch line as you’ll find on this somewhat silly album.

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