Justin Timberlake, “The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2” (RCA)
Somewhere, in the midst of the 20 songs and 2½ hours of music that is “The 20/20 Experience,” lurks a great Justin Timberlake album.
Cut away some repetition. Prune some seven-minute songs down to manageable sizes. Soon, the ambition and artistic vision shine through. Right now, “20/20” is still a bit blurry, although this second part is slightly sharper than the first.
If the big-production number “Take Back the Night” feels a bit cold for a calculated Michael Jackson tribute, “You Got It On,” with Timberlake adopting a gorgeous falsetto over a stylish soul groove, crackles with emotion. “Not a Bad Thing,” a lovely slice of R&B, shows how charming he can be when he’s not trying too hard. The lush, sweeping “Amnesia” shows how Timberlake and producer Timbaland can handle arrangements and emotions that are a bit more complex; it even warrants its seven-minute-plus runtime.
Unfortunately, to get there, you have to pass through the ridiculous nine-minute “True Blood,” the bloated “TKO” and the throwaway Jay Z collabo “Murder.” It’s a very long ride, but in the end, it’s worth the trip.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Haim, “Days Are Gone” (Columbia)
Like grinning babies, like stringy taffy, like pink sunsets, it’s hard to disagree with Haim. The Los Angeles sister trio — Este, Danielle and Alana Haim — is gloriously synthetic, ruthlessly triggering familiar pleasure centers developed three decades ago. There’s the slightly sinister bubbly-ness of early Madonna, the erotic power of Pat Benatar, the breathlessness of Sheena Easton.
Haim lashes all of these together with force and glee. “Days Are Gone” is as convincing as any major-label rock album this year, especially its first half, which is slick, confident and winningly breezy. The majority of this album is produced by the band with Ariel Rechtshaid, who knows how to make small, precise bands sound huge.
Danielle, the frontwoman, sometimes sings with a carnal huskiness, with an almost bluesy undertone. But despite the darkness, she’s an uplifting singer. All three sisters sing — sometimes solo, sometimes in sugared harmony — mostly about relationships that get abandoned.
Style trumps words in almost every case, making for songs that are potent when they’re not particularly meaningful. Thanks to its exuberance and the care with which it embraces its palette of influences, Haim has made itself impossible to hate.
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times