Shania Twain, “Now” (Mercury Nashville)
Twain enumerates many kinds of loss on “Now,” the first album she’s released since the end of her marriage to producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who helped her revolutionize country music in the 1990s.
There’s the loss of innocence she describes in “Poor Me,” which appears to recount Twain’s discovery that her husband was having an affair with her best friend. And there’s the trust she says she had to regain before she could love someone else in “Life’s About to Get Good.”
But Lange didn’t take everything from her. On this surprising yet frustrating album, Twain shows that her taste for adventure and her commitment to polish remain intact without her longtime collaborator.
Like her megaselling “Come on Over” and “Up!” albums, “Now” — Twain’s first record since 2002 — cuts a wide stylistic path, veering from rootsy numbers such as “Light of My Life” to windswept ballads like “I’m Alright” to the zany “Let’s Kiss and Make Up,” which layers a folky acoustic lick over a pulsating tropical-house groove. It all sounds great, too, with contributions from a vast array of players, including Jacquire King and guitarist Greg Leisz.
The problem is Twain’s singing. She suffered from a temporary loss of her voice related to Lyme disease. When her voice returned, she’s said, it was lower and less flexible than before, and that works out OK in the slower, moodier stuff here. That’s not the case, though, in the up-tempo material, which feels flat and robotic.
Mikael wood, Los Angeles Times
Miley Cyrus, “Younger Now” (RCA)
Cyrus says she named her new album “Younger Now” because she feels more youthful at 24 than she did as a boundary-pushing teen.
But make no mistake. The songs on this album are far more mature than anything else she has ever done — even more than the 2013 blockbuster album “Bangerz.”
“Younger Now” is pure Miley and she expresses herself well. “I’ll start feeling mad, but then I feel inspired,” she sings on the delightfully simple ballad “Inspired,” which she wrote for Hillary Clinton.
Maybe Cyrus learned from her godmother Dolly Parton, who appears here on the sweet “Rainbowland” using her powers to charm as a singer doing lovely harmonies, as well as in a voice mail talking about her recording process and lack of tech savvy.
Are there more elegant ways to express some of these emotions? Sure. But it all sounds like her. It sounds real. The ache of “Miss You So Much” sounds more believable than so much of what is on country radio today. “Week Without You” manages to sound like classic country, which she shakes up with her swearing and timely imagery.
And on the album’s title track, Cyrus seems to carve out a niche — part rock, part pop, the edge provided by her raspy voice and unexpected harmonies — that she has all to herself for as long as she wants it, which, given her track record, may not be that long.
Glenn gamboa, Newsday
• Liam Gallagher, “As You Were”
• Marilyn Manson, “Heaven Upside Down”
• The Darkness, “Pinewood Smile”
• Kelela, “Take Me Apart”