Kylie Minogue- The Best of Kylie Minogue
After two decades of niche fame, Kylie Minogue’s camp isn’t giving up on demonstrating to the non-gay public the awesomeness of the Aussie, recycling her hits into remixes, live releases and past hit collections. The strategy? Drop a new album, and then get those hits on another album – any album – stat. The Best of Kylie Minogue makes its case: The underrated diva’s catalog is a bank of irresistible dance-music goodies, from her classic ’80s-released fame-maker “The Loco-Motion” to 2002’s crossover hit “Love at First Sight.” Those, of course, show up here (the former as the 7” mix), as do 19 other tracks, and their music videos on an accompanying DVD, from the last 25 years: “I Should Be So Lucky,” a bubblegum standout from her 1988 debut that begs you to get out the boom box, and disco-influenced gems like “Spinning Around” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” The latest additions, “All the Lovers” and “Get Outta My Way,” come from Minogue’s reinvigorating Aphrodite, but that hardly warrants another cobbled LP after 2004’s two-disc set, Ultimate Kylie – even if this is her 25th year since making the shift from soap star to dance queen. “Timebomb,” her new single commemorating this milestone, would’ve been a nice incentive on an album that’s a hard-to-justify buy. At least there’s the cool cover art. Kylie buttons from different eras? Oh hell yeah.
Scissor Sisters- Magic Hour
Songs about eternal solitude in the sky, horses as our only escape from the apocalypse and a tropical getaway with “the backpack full of Captain Jack”: Not since the quartet’s first album, released nearly a decade ago, have they been this wholeheartedly inspiring. And not inspiring in the make-sexytime way. Their last LP, Night Work, was all hyper-horny, like some pre-teen who just discovered what a hand and mouth can really do. Hormones aren’t raging on Magic Hour, but, naturally, they’re still there: “Self Control” is a musical oxymoron (how can anyone get ahold of themselves with Jake Shears telling them to “feel the push”?), and the delightfully raunchy “Let’s Have a Kiki” camps up its drag queen romp like some long-lost song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s clear the Sisters want to be about more than just sex; there’s also darkness, loneliness and obvious signs of maturity threaded throughout. Through the classic-rock aura of Elton John comes “San Luis Obispo,” swimming in island rhythms that beseech you to throw on a grass skirt, grab a mai tai and listen closely to the introspection brimming beneath. And who can blame them for “Only the Horses,” a Calvin Harris-produced shot at mainstream fame? With this album, they’ve earned it.
Rock of Ages soundtrack
Naysayers who thought it was risky business having Tom Cruise take on the hair-metal classics of the rock era might be surprised at the gusto he gives in Rock of Ages, the big-screen adaptation of the big-timing Broadway musical. As any good actor will tell you, losing yourself in the role is key – and Cruise, as Stacee Jaxx, does exactly that with his numbers on the jukebox soundtrack. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is probably too clean-cut for the Gen Xers who can’t see Jerry Maguire blasting testosterone into a Def Leppard sex song, but Cruise is convincing – and completely unrecognizable – as a grunge-rocker that can, yes, sing. Even better, vocally, is the way he reaches for some high notes on “Paradise City” like someone kicked him in the balls. Catherine Zeta-Jones has a darn good time doing her best Pat Benatar on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and her energy is infectious. Less appealing is Julianne Hough on … just about all her songs. Hough’s not a bad singer, but she’s no Lea Michele – no matter how hard she tries. So when Mary J. Blige drops in halfway through “Harden My Heart” like a drama-defeating Jesus to a down-and-out Hough – Hail Mary, full of grace! – she’s saving more than she knows: With her soulful “Shadows of the Night” and sassy “Any Way You Want It,” she shows everyone how it’s done.
Regina Spektor- What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
With 2006’s Begin to Hope, Regina Spektor stepped out from the shadows of the hipster underground for some pop-world reach. That career opus struck a fine balance that its follow-up, Far, overworked into vanilla mediocrity. Her sixth disc, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, is not only a significant upswing on Far for the Soviet-born singer – and much more comfortable in being straight-up strange – but it shows that Hope wasn’t a one-time fluke: Spektor doesn’t repress her idiosyncrasies (she beat boxes, speaks in an Italian tongue and lips a marching band) and finds ways to work them more naturally into the handsomely stitched fabric without neutering herself. Of course, it helps having straighter-edged sentiments of endearing candor, like those of “The Party” or “How,” to break up the queerness of her ode to a mass murderer on “Oh Marcello” and the eerie museum narrative “All the Rowboats.” Even without “Firewood,” a beautiful ballad bringing her back down to earth that warmly concludes “there’s still no cure for crying,” there’s no second-guessing it: This is Regina Spektor’s best album ever.