CD reviews: Kris Kristofferson, Ra Ra Riot, Petra Haden

  • Updated: January 25, 2013 - 3:37 PM

POP/ROCK

Kris Kristofferson, “Feeling Mortal” (KK)

He’s 76, so, sure, Kristofferson is feeling mortal. Over the past several years, however, that feeling has resharpened his muse, resulting in his best work since the ’60s and ’70s, when he introduced a new poetic lyricism to country music. “Feeling Mortal” is no exception — it’s the first great album of 2013.

As on 2006’s “This Old Road” and 2009’s “Closer to the Bone,” producer Don Was puts Kristofferson in the best possible light. He highlights the aging troubadour’s craggy grace with spare arrangements that fit his conversational delivery and heighten the intimacy of these songs about life, love and hard-earned wisdom.

Kristofferson may be feeling mortal, but that’s also freeing, and so the silver-haired devil doesn’t sound as though he’s ready to quit anytime soon, as he indicates on “You Don’t Tell Me What to Do.”

Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer

Ra Ra Riot, “Beta Love” (Barsuk)

On its face, “Beta Love” is the sound of a band finally plugging into the matrix. Ra Ra Riot’s previous two albums proposed a flowery, chamber-esque take on indie-rock, self-conscious sometimes to a fault. The new album plunges deep into synth pop, with Wes Miles’ tenor soaring sweetly over a range of mechanized textures. The band still has its violinist but not its cellist, and it got a vital assist from producer Dennis Herring and session drummer Josh Freese. Naturally there’s a concept, involving the cyberpunk sage William Gibson and the futurist-inventor Ray Kurzweil. Best to ignore all that. When Miles gets too literal, as on “Binary Mind,” you can begin to feel cornered. Far better is his bittersweet keen on “Angel, Please” and “For Once” and “Is It Too Much,” songs of direct melodic and emotional thrust.

NATE CHINEN, New York Times

Petra Haden, “Petra Goes to the Movies” (Anti-)

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