The Lumineers, "Cleopatra" (Dualtone)
Before going straight to Billboard's No. 1 album spot with this release, the usually chipper, now moody Colorado campfire folk-rock band was known as the headlining act for HBO's fictional "Girls" duo Desi & Marnie. The Lumineers' cheerful demeanor and jumpy, rustic aesthetic on singles such as "Ho Hey" made them perfect for a barnstorming in Bushwick.
Things changed, however, for this second record. Outside of the strummy title track and the swivel-hipped Shakespearean twist on "Ophelia," it's as if the Denver trio refused to look back (except in anger), lest they be turned to salt.
Part of that holy-rolling thought process — their country-gospel lean — was nicely apparent on their eponymous first record. This time out, singing songwriters Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums) with cellist Neyla Pekarek find churchy, atmospheric swells and funereal tempos on mournful tunes such as the apolitical "Gun Song" and the aptly titled "Patience."
There's room for love ("Angela") and weird lust (the blue "Sick in the Head") on "Cleopatra," but mostly what there's room for within its sonic palette is more room — a spacious, spare quality that may not feel contagious but that sneaks up on you with every listen.
a.d. amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Kesha, "True Colors" (iTunes)
Kesha isn't exactly free, but if her newly released single is any indication, she's liberated enough to begin re-establishing herself as a performer rather than the woman at the center of a courthouse drama.
The embattled artist dropped this EDM ballad, her first release in the three years since suing producer Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald to get out of her deal on his label, claiming sexual and emotional abuse. He denies all the allegations.
Produced by EDM mainstay Zee, "True Colors" is not the fierce battle cry you might expect from the girl who has come to symbolize female artists' fight for empowerment in a very male, very misogynistic music industry (her last full album was titled "Warrior," after all). The song is, instead, a graceful and even subdued re-entry. Though the lyrics may seem timely and personal a la Beyoncé's "Lemonade," it should be noted that "True Colors" isn't a Kesha original; it's a 2015 Zedd track revised with her on lead vocals.
Still, it's hardly a letdown. Kesha's voice soars here, no party-posturing needed.
Though the idea of Kesha as a renegade who broke the law (or at least her contractual obligations) by making "True Colors" under the cover of darkness is a compelling narrative, in fact, the song was released with the permission of Luke's Kemosabe label and its parent company, RCA.
Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times
• Radiohead, "Burn the Witch"
• Goo Goo Dolls, "Boxes"
• Keith Urban, "Ripcord"
• Mike Posner, "At Night, Alone"
• Mary Chapin Carpenter, "The Things That We Are Made Of"
• Cyndi Lauper, "Detour"
• Cole Swindell, "You Should Be Here"
• Laura Mvula, "The Dreaming Room"