Linkin Park, “One More Light” (Warner Bros.)
Linkin Park’s transformation from the howling rap-metal of its breakthrough album “Hybrid Theory” to the radio-ready pop of its new album “One More Light” is really shocking only to those who haven’t checked in with the band since the turn of the century.
Yes, it is a giant leap from Chester Bennington screaming lyrics and Brad Delson’s roaring guitars in songs like “Crawling” to the electro-pop of “Nobody Can Save Me” and “Sorry for Now,” where Bennington sounds like he has taken over Owl City. But there have been plenty of steps in between, during the past decade or so, and Linkin Park has clearly been sharpening its pop hooks.
With “Good Goodbye,” the band seems as sprightly as any number of pop newcomers, especially with its ahead-of-the-curve verses from Pusha T and British sensation Stormzy. The current single “Heavy,” which features newcomer Kiiara, sounds so timely and pop-oriented that it actually shocked some Linkin Park fans, though the fact that it is so well-crafted should have soothed any ruffled feathers.
Linkin Park has applied its considerable skills to songs and ideas that are far more mainstream and grown up, but shouldn’t that be expected? It’s one thing to fret about the future when you’re a 20-something, but if you’re pushing 40 and still haven’t come up with any answers, there’s a problem.
Bennington is actually now singing more inspirational songs like “Battle Symphony” and the title track, a touching, spare ballad where he stands up for those who are struggling, singing “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do,” before a Coldplay-ish bit of guitar work kicks in.
“One More Light” shows how well Linkin Park has absorbed the current pop scene and applied it to their own music to genuinely reflect who they are today, not who some fans want them to be.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Mountain Goats, “Goths” (Merge)
John Darnielle has been a master of sharply observed character studies since he started releasing Mountain Goats cassettes in the early ’90s. He examined a dysfunctional couple on 2002’s “Tallahassee,” dealt with his own troubled childhood on 2005’s “The Sunset Tree,” and used tarot cards as a catalyst for 2010’s “All Eternals Deck.” After focusing on the rather hermetic world of professional wrestling for 2015’s “Beat the Champ” (and on his novel-writing for the recent “Universal Harvester”), Darnielle turns his empathetic eye to another subculture: black-clad goths and the rise and fall of the ’80s bands they loved.
Aside from the dramatic “Rain in Soho,” bolstered by a 16-voice choir, and the New Order-like coda to “Shelved,” the sound is far from goth: Darnielle eschews his usual guitars for a gentle Fender Rhodes piano, and new member Matt Douglas sweetens the spacious arrangements with woodwinds. In touching yet humorous songs that name-drop Gene Loves Jezebel, the Sisters of Mercy and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Darnielle ruminates on the longings of fans and the vagaries of fame.
STEVE KLINGE, Philadelphia Inquirer
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