Jack Ü, "Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü" (Atlantic )
Skrillex and Diplo, the reigning princes of EDM, have combined forces, and for this album, they take the name Jack Ü. This pair-up shouldn't be a surprise. These two like messy, frantic tracks, achingly slow-build verses and deep drop choruses. Their first collaborative track, "Take Ü There," was all the above and more: hilarious rage and bone-rattling, headbanging gloss. The original version and its wall-vibrating Missy Elliott remix appear here for maximum mind-messing impact. With the vocal help of 2 Chainz, AlunaGeorge and Justin Bieber, the DJ/producers complete their vision with vexing, frenetic rhythm and palpitation-filled agit-pop.
Without voices, such fast tracks as "Don't Do Drugs Just Take Some" meander aimlessly. With vocals, Jack Ü is a worthy pairing. The deadwood of "Febreze" and its dull perpetrator, 2 Chainz, is lame, but "Beats Knockin'," with Fly Boi Keno, turns trap-hop into a Southern Gothic treat. And AlunaGeorge's sweet, wordy "To Ü" offers Jack Ü its only darling moment. As for the Biebs, "Where Are Ü Now" starts with a honey of a melody and frown-face emotion, only to wind up hollow and repetitive.
Close to classic, Jack Ü is the start of a beautiful friendship.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Marina and the Diamonds, "Froot" (Elektra/Atlantic)
Marina Diamandis became a breakout star in 2010 with the highly stylized electro-pop "The Family Jewels," which hit the Top 5 in her native United Kingdom. But she didn't really come into her own until her new album.
Marina has been rolling out songs from "Froot" monthly since October. The electro-pop is still intact, but the vibe has changed dramatically from her "I Am Not a Robot" days.
Everything is so much warmer and richer. The title track from "Froot" is practically giddy as Marina celebrates life "like a fruit on a tree, waiting to be picked." The galloping verses blossom into a disco-influenced chorus about "saving all my summers for you" that would make Giorgio Moroder proud.
On "Savages," Marina takes an impressive macro look at society and its violence. And she does it without losing the beat or making a judgment, much in the way '80s new wavers would merge synth pop and personal politics.
There are times when Marina's imagination gets away from her, such as on the extended metaphor "Weeds," but usually her lyrical adventures pay off in a wild, enjoyable ride. Marina has said she was less willing to compromise on "Froot." She is now perfectly ripe for success.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday