Foo Fighters, “Concrete and Gold” (RCA)
It was pretty clear that the Foo Fighters were looking for some inspiration in recent years.
“Wasting Light,” in 2011, was recorded using only analog equipment. “Sonic Highways,” in 2014, was recorded entirely on the road, with each song written and recorded in a different city — a process that was captured in an HBO documentary series.
However, for the Foos’ ninth album, “Concrete and Gold,” there are no gimmicks. They aren’t needed.
Starting with the opener “T-Shirt” — which goes from acoustic sweetness, as Dave Grohl sings, “I don’t wanna be queen, just trying to keep my T-shirt clean,” to massive Queen-styled rock bombast in a split second — it is clear the creative flame is now burning bright.
The first single, “Run,” goes from a swirl of Beatle-esque harmonies to heavy metal shrieking and back again, managing to always still sound like the Foo Fighters. It is part of the band’s lasting charm that it can stretch and twist into different rock styles and still maintain its own distinctive sound.
“La Dee Da” pulls the Foos into protest anthems with a bit of swagger, one of the many examples of how producer Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Adele, Sia and Kelly Clarkson, makes these songs sound crisper and more pointed. The opening of “The Line” could have come from one of Kurstin’s pop collaborators before it bashes its way back into a hard-rock powerhouse.
The guitar ballad “Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)” shows how Grohl’s relationship with Paul McCartney, who plays drums on the Steve Miller Band-drenched “Sunday Rain” here, has seeped into his songwriting, setting his sights on more details and grander statements.
It’s a microcosm of “Concrete and Gold” as a whole, as Grohl and the Foos go for more artistic than they have in years and succeed every time.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Amadou & Mariam, “La Confusion” (Because)
Some artists are so consistently outstanding that just the knowledge that they’re planning to put out a new album is enough to sustain you through years that are otherwise pretty significant dumpster fires. This is one of those years, and husband-wife duo Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia are two of those artists.
They never disappoint, and “La Confusion” sees the two step up their game once again with a blend of pan-African pop that will bring even the most jaded denizen of the 21st century back to life with their dancing shoes tied.
adriane pontecorvo, Popmatters.com
• The Killers, “Wonderful Wonderful”
• Fergie, “Double Duchess”
• Macklemore, “Gemini”
• Black Country Communion, “BCCIV”
• The Bronx, “V”
• Ledisi, “Let Love Rule”
• Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, “Everybody Knows”
• Leon Russell, “On a Distant Shore”
• Van Morrison, “Roll With the Punches”