No Doubt, "Push and Shove" (Interscope)
It's been a virtual lifetime in pop -- 11 years to be exact -- since we last heard new music from No Doubt, which rocketed out of Orange County with 1995's gazillion-selling "Tragic Kingdom" and went on to become one of that decade's most important acts. And though the band's influence is clear in the glossy, vividly omnivorous work of fun. and Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani and her bandmates sound fully aware of the precarious position they're in now, at a moment when radio is crammed with newcomers and brand loyalty has all but evaporated among young listeners.
At its best, "Push and Shove" channels some of the infectiously restless energy of "Rock Steady," the band's pre-hiatus farewell. And it further polishes a bold mix-and-match aesthetic that feels familiar today in part because of records such as "Tragic Kingdom."
"I'm like a trend / I'm back and forth," Stefani sings over the surging electro-funk of "Heaven," and that's how No Doubt works here, pumping up a pounding arena-rave beat in "Looking Hot," then scaling down to a spooky synth pulse for "Easy" and importing Bollywood-style strings in "Settle Down."
Sure, No Doubt is still looking hot. But these alt-pop survivors are acknowledging their age, too, emphasizing what they can do that Selena Gomez perhaps can't. Near the end of "Push and Shove," the band clears away all the au courant electronic clutter for "Undone," a lush troubled-love ballad in the vein of old No Doubt hits like "Don't Speak" and "Simple Kind of Life."
"I made you feel like you were lucky to have me," Stefani sings, crystallizing a sentiment countless pop songs dance around. "But now I'm panicking, I'm lost / You're the one I need / Be patient please." If she's talking to us, she's bought herself a few more years.
MIKAEL WOOD, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Band of Horses, "Mirage Rock" (Columbia)
As if to dispel memories of 2010's "Infinite Arms," Band of Horses open "Mirage Rock" with "Knock Knock," a ripping one-chord rock song that blasts out of the gate with a joyful howl. Instead of the cosmic country harmonies of "Arms," "Mirage Rock' puts the emphasis on the rock, and veteran producer Glyn Johns reins in the band's penchant for endless reverb.
The Portland band hasn't forsaken acoustic ballads, but this time around the anchors are loud rockers such as "Feud." Often, though, the album plays like a series of homages: "Electric Music," to the Stones; "Slow Cruel Hands of Time," to the Byrds; "Dumpster World," to America (the band); "Long Vowels," to recent tour mates My Morning Jacket. Maybe that's the mirage part.
STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER