By Andrew McNally, Columnist
Bruce Springsteen – "Wrecking Ball"
Springsteen's latest, "Wrecking Ball," is a departure from his most famous works, both musically and lyrically. Springsteen travels down the folk-inspired road he has experimented with before, incorporating church choirs into three songs, some guitar work that sounds all too ‘60's, and, in an unexpected finale, hip-hop and traditional Irish instruments. It's all very interesting, not without problems in flow. Lyrically, "Wrecking Ball" is a total new direction, as Springsteen aims his sights at indicting Wall Street instead of praising those affected by it. He never hits as hard as he thinks, with many songs left feeling uninspired, lyrically. It's hit-or-miss, but when it hits, it's engrossingly worthwhile.
Recommended: Does it matter what I put here? It's Bruce.
Kaiser Chiefs – "Start the Revolution Without Me"
The Kaiser Chiefs made a splash with their first singles, in 2004. For a few years, they made songs that sounded just like those singles, unbearably cut and paste. With their new album, they're finally showing signs of breaking that mold. The first half of the album experiments with synthesizers, different lyrical topics, even steel drums. Somewhere around the halfway point, though, it falls back into guitars-bass-drums. The songs become increasingly unoriginal, though some not as painful as they could be. But there are signs of life here, and hopefully it's a step in the right direction for the band.
Recommended: Franz Ferdinand, Blur
Andrew Bird – "Break It Yourself"
Ever-folksy Bird may suffer from the lack of a unique sound – Bon Iver's got falsetto, Fleet Foxes have their harmonizing – but it isn't stopping him. He's got a voice that's both sweet and commanding, and "Break It Yourself" follows his path of including many instruments and frequent whistling in his songs. The songs are flowing and beautiful, and are all unique in their own right. The album's long length is responsible for the music getting bogged down by the end, but Bird still proves he's at the top of his game, head and shoulders over most of his bland contemporaries.
Recommended: Bon Iver, Devendra Banhart