CD reviews: Missy Higgins, Susanna Hoffs, Hellyeah

Missy Higgins

Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins is one of those artists who can seemingly pluck a pop hook out of thin air and then forge a song around it with just as little effort.

Previous albums such as “The Sound of White” and “On a Clear Night” have made Higgins a star in her native country and has led to a smaller following here in the United States.

On a side note: Local musician and producer Jay Clifford co-wrote a song on “The Sound of White.”

While traveling in 2010 with the Lilith Fair tour, Higgins met fellow Aussie artist Butterfly Boucher and eventually traveled to Nashville, Tenn., so that Boucher could produce Higgins’ latest effort, “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle.”

Recorded after a lengthy break from writing and recording, Higgins definitely sounds refreshed on the new album. Her lovely singing voice, which is reminiscent of Regina Spektor, is as strong as ever on the new release.

Standout tracks include the jazzy “Hello Hello,” the beautiful “All in My Head” and the ultra-catchy “Temporary Love,” which begs to be remixed into a dance track.

It is obvious pretty early on that the break from making music only strengthened Higgins’ artistic instincts.

The music on “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle” shows an artist who is emerging and spreading her wings.

Key Tracks: “Hello Hello,” “All in My Head,” “Temporary Love”

While she is primarily known as the lead singer for The Bangles, Susanna Hoffs has kept busy musically even when not recording and touring with that classic ’80s band.

She’s recorded a pair of albums of cover song duets with Matthew Sweet and has released a pair of solo albums, 1991’s “When You’re a Boy” and 1996’s “Susanna Hoffs.” In addition, she was a member of the fictitious band Ming Tea, which played between scenes in the “Austin Powers” films.

Neither of her solo albums really made anything resembling a splash in the music world, which was a shame, as they were both decent, especially “When You’re a Boy.”

Never one to rest on her laurels, Hoffs is back with yet another solo effort, “Someday,” which once again demonstrates Hoffs’ talents as a songwriter and performer.

“Someday” is a far more mature album than any of her earlier work. If you’re looking for this year’s “Manic Monday” or “Walk Like an Egyptian,” then you’ll likely be disappointed.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for well-crafted California folk pop with a heavy dose of the 1960s thrown in, then you’re going to love what’s on “Someday.”

Chipper songs such as “November Sun” and “One Day” are reminiscent of The Mamas & the Papas or The Beach Boys (if they had a female vocalist), and there are lavish touches to the production, including strings and horns on several songs.

Hoffs’ distinctive voice punctuates each song, and many of the tunes have her favorite Rickenbacker guitar jangling along happily.

Overall, “Someday” is the solo album that hopefully will cement Hoffs’ status as a solo artist.

Key Tracks: “November Sun,” “One Day,” “Holding My Breath”

When members of several well-known musical acts join forces to record an album, the results can be hit or miss.

Sometimes the result is magic, as was the case with The Traveling Wilburys and Cream.

Other times, the ensuing music is all but unlistenable, much like the material on the albums by Zwan and Bad English.

Hellyeah gathers members of Pantera, Mudvayne, Nothingface and Damageplan.

As if those acts weren’t hard enough rock for the average listener, it appears that Hellyeah was born with a chip on its musical shoulder. As a result, the band apparently feels the need to attempt to melt the faces of anyone daring enough to give the band a listen.

I saw them play live at a concert thrown by 98 Rock a couple of years ago, and these guys don’t hold back.

Lead singer Chad Grey doesn’t sing his lyrics so much as he spews them at the listener. Add the musicianship of drummer Vinnie Paul, guitarist Tom Maxwell and bassist Bob Zilla, and it’s easy to see why Hellyeah lasted past its first album and is now releasing its third, “Band of Brothers.”

On the new CD, there’s nothing much new under Hellyeah’s sun, which is actually a good thing.

Songs such a “War in Me,” “Drink Drank Drunk” and “Dig Myself a Hole” probably give even someone who doesn’t listen to metal an idea of what lies in wait on the new album.

Suffice it to say that if you liked Hellyeah’s first two satisfying yet one-dimensional releases, then “Band ofBrothers” offers more of the same.

Key Tracks: “War in Me,” “Drink Drank Drunk,” “Between You and Nowhere”

By Devin Grant