Taylor Swift's all-out move into pop music on her fifth album, "1989," is the sound of a young artist who has gradually evolved from a teenager obsessed with boys and journal writing into a young woman embracing life in New York and stepping to a new beat.
"Shake It Off," her first single, was a fun introduction to the new Swift sound. But it's the most lighthearted track on "1989," which sweeps from the rocking confrontation of "Bad Blood" to the delicate "This Love" to the Lana Del Ray retro-noir of "Wildest Dreams." Taylor still flirts playfully at times, as on "How You Get the Girl," but more often she comes off as more guarded, more apprehensive and more realistic in her views on relationships.
Heavy on bass, drum loops and electronic sounds and using harmonic vocals as a form of rhythm, Swift mixes beats and melody in search of a classic pop model of her own. She ignores modern pop's reliance on guest stars to explore the many ways she can use her own voice. At times she clips her words sharply against the beats, while still occasionally speaking words to establish intimacy. But she also opens and sings like she rarely has.
A couple of songs come off as generic exercises, especially the arrangement of "I Know Places." Still, "1989" is another triumph for Swift, not a precocious achievement, as in her early years, but a mature reflection of where she is now, in her life and in her artistry.
By Michael McCall, Associated Press
The bottomless well of material from Bob Dylan just got deeper with the release of "Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes," an unqualified success.
The 20 songs with titles like "Card Shark" and "Duncan and Jimmy" are taken from recently discovered lyrics Dylan wrote in 1967, during the period that produced the so-called Basement Tapes recordings that were released in their entirety in a separate box set earlier in November.
Such luminaries as Elvis Costello, Jim James from My Morning Jacket, and Marcus Mumford worked out musical arrangements from the lyrics that Dylan either never recorded, or perhaps recorded and never released. Former Dylan band member and producer T Bone Burnett, who also pulled together the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack among many other projects, oversaw the work and makes it all flow seamlessly.
"Down On The Bottom," the James-led opener, is a standout, as is "When I Get My Hands On You," with Mumford taking lead vocals.
The artists create something entirely new with lyrics written nearly 45 years ago that sound like they could just as easily have come from the Civil War, Dust Bowl or yesterday.
In other words, it's timeless.
By Scott Bauer, Associated Press
The UK's pre-eminent dance hit-maker Calvin Harris is out with his fourth studio album, "Motion," a smattering of hit-and-miss attempts at filling dance floors and minds with his relentless brand of acceptable electro-house.
The professional polish is there, and Harris' fans won't be disappointed with energetic tracks like "Outside," featuring Ellie Goulding, and the much heavier "Burnin," with R3hab. But make no mistake. This is everyman's house. Just peppy enough to get you moving, but no approaches you haven't heard before.
Even "Under Control," the first single from the album, is less about the middling track and more about the collaborative star power by Alesso and synth-sound specialists Hurts.
The best track by far is "Love Now," thanks to gorgeous vocals by Vanya Taylor from All About She. "Open Wide" with Big Sean handling the rap duties also stands out, with a sharp bottom end and adults-only lyrics.
Harris' smartest move on "Motion" is partnering with white-hot featured artists for just the right songs. He picks his spots better than most.
By Ron Harris, Associated Press
Collaborations between contemporary country artists and classic rock stars have become commonplace over the years. But the Doobie Brothers, with their accent on catchy choruses, close harmonies and traditional influences, match up particularly well with Nashville stars.
The Doobies' new album, "Southbound," features country stars such as the Zac Brown Band, Sara Evans, Hunter Hayes, Toby Keith and Blake Shelton joining the band on new versions of its best-known songs. However, the tracks were recorded by Nashville studio pros, with the Doobies - Tom Johnston, Michael McDonald, John McFee, Patrick Simmons - and their guests providing lead vocals and harmonies.
The result sounds like what it is: talented folks recording on the fly and reading their parts. The songs come across as pieced together because they were.
A few tracks do gel: Tyler Farr brings a hard-rock edge that works well with the gospel harmonies on "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)," Brad Paisley adds fiery licks to a juiced-up "Rockin' Down the Highway" and Amanda Sudano Ramirez of the indie duo Johnnyswim wails like an old-school soul queen on "You Belong to Me," which features Vince Gill on guitar.
The rest suffers from an emphasis on accommodating budgets and schedules rather than on the inspired spark of artistic collaboration.
By Michael McCall, Associated Press