Bob Mould, “Sunshine Rock” (Merge)
Indie-rock pioneer Mould has used his recent albums to work through some serious issues. The Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman wrote his “Beauty and Ruin” album after his father died and wrote “Patch the Sky” after losing his mom. For “Sunshine Rock,” Mould made a conscious effort to focus on happier themes.
If the album title weren’t enough of a clue, there are also songs called “Sunny Love Song” and “Camp Sunshine.” All that sunniness hasn’t blunted Mould’s edge, though.
“Thirty Dozen Roses” is as raucous as ever, with drummer Jon Wurster pounding away and bassist Jason Narducy thumping along to show why Foo Fighters have long idolized Mould. “What Do You Want Me to Do” is another hard-hitting triumph in the vein of the Hüsker Dü classic “Makes No Sense at All.”
However, it’s the softer moments here that show how much things have changed for former Twin Cities resident Mould, who now lives in Germany. He approaches “Camp Sunshine” with childlike wonder, as he sings about the thrill of “the days I get to spend making music with my friends.” It’s a sweet change of pace, as is “The Final Years,” with a serene synthesizer riff and a groove reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” that Mould crowns with dramatic vocals.
Of course, not everything is lighthearted here. “Lost Faith” addresses a crisis of conscience. But by the time he reaches the chorus, he offers hope: “We all lose faith in troubled times, you know I’m gonna be right here.”
That line encapsulates the feel of “Sunshine Rock” and it also pays tribute to the comfort that Mould’s near-constant high level of craftsmanship has been for nearly four decades.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Weezer, “The Teal Album” (Atlantic)
Does Weezer do these 10 great songs justice? To a fault. They honor the wildly disparate likes of “Billie Jean,” “Paranoid” and “No Scrubs” so faithfully it raises the question of what we as listeners are meant to need of them. The very few moments of editorializing (half-time drums on the chorus of the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” fuzz bass on “Stand by Me”) are arguments for the strict karaoke route. So these remakes are a bit too uncanny.
Try figuring out why “Africa,” Weezer’s biggest hit in years, has less life coming from arena-rock goofballs than the poker-faced, studio-bound Toto original. More often than not, the answer is Patrick Wilson’s unimaginative drumming, whereas a jubilant Rivers Cuomo throws himself into these vocal challenges, showing a range we’ve never heard from him before. And they’re still 10 great songs.
Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Florida Georgia Line, “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country”
• Avril Lavigne, “Head Above Water”
• Chaka Khan, “Hello Happiness”
• Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Signs”
• Betty Who, “Betty”
• Hayes Carll, “What It Is”