Kylie Minogue, "The Abbey Road Sessions" (Astralwerks)
In any other context, the self-covers album is fraught with the subtext that a performer's out of ideas. But "The Abbey Road Sessions" fits in neatly with Minogue's continuing celebration of her 25th anniversary as a pop star, looking back and reinterpreting select gems from throughout her career. Gone are the club-friendly gloss and beats, replaced by live, mostly acoustic instrumentation (including orchestra) that creates a palpable sense of physical space. A few songs thrive in new settings: "The Locomotion" reverts to its classic girl-group roots, murder ballad "Where the Wild Roses Grow" (with returning duet partner Nick Cave) turns darker, and "Confide in Me" induces shivers when Minogue whispers "Stick or twist, the choice is yours." On the other hand, the original was shiver-inducing straight through, and "dediscofying" such mighty (overseas) hits as "I Believe in You" and "Come Into My World" into cocktail folk or Shirley Bassey nightclub soul turns them into trifles. It turns out, those songs really want to dance.
MARC HIRSH, Boston Globe
Cody ChesnuTT, "Landing on a Hundred" (Vibration Vineyard)
You remember ChesnuTT: He's the guitar-slinging soul man who came up with the killer riffage on "The Seed," the deathless track off his 2002 double-album debut "The Headphone Masterpiece" that appeared in altered form on the Roots' "Phrenology" (and is still a centerpiece of the band's live show). "Landing on a Hundred" is ChesnuTT's first full-length album in a decade, and like his debut, it's a self-released effort by the Atlanta native that blends R&B, soul, and rock, filtered through its auteur's gruff and sweet vocal maneuvers and his idiosyncratic sensibility. Ten years down the road on a Kickstarter-funded effort that was cut at the Memphis studios where Al Green recorded his hits, ChesnuTT doesn't come off as forward-thinking as he once did. But the musical questions he asks on the smooth "What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next)" and "Where Is All the Money Going?" are timeless.
DAN DELUCA, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Paul Banks, "Banks" (Matador)
As sulk-rock throwbacks, the band Interpol ran out of ideas so quickly that all it has taken is a solo hodgepodge to actually make their lead singer sound fresh again. Where the comparative dourness of their indie-band peers the National could be attributed to bad economic times, "Banks" was unlikely to have a title track that lambasted Big Corporate. The dryly hilarious "I'll Sue You" is a surprise, though -- maybe the hopeless chap doesn't just live inside his own head. And this is the poppiest album ever released by a Joy Division habitu; the jingling details of "No Mistakes" and the vaguely ragtime guitars of "Arise Awake" are musical magnetic poetry.
DAN WEISS, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER