Album Review: Mumford & Sons' 'Babel' towers over 'Sigh No More'

Strong sophomore set highlights British band's musicianship

Mumford & Sons helped usher in a new acoustic rock movement two years ago with the release of the multi-platinum “Sigh No More.”

Utilizing primarily acoustic instruments such as banjos, mandolins, guitars and upright bass, Mumford & Sons created a ferocious, layered racket on hits like “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” that had more in common with the most urgent rock tunes than folk or bluegrass.

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<p>&quot;Push and Shove&quot;</p>

"Push and Shove"

Credit: Interscope Records

Album Review: No Doubt returns in fine form on 'Push And Shove'

SoCal band finds inspiration in looking back

The earth may have orbited the sun 11 times since the last No Doubt album, but it’s hard to tell any time has passed in the Southern California band’s world on its new album, “Push And Shove," out Sept. 25.

No Doubt’s last studio album,  “Rock Steady,” came out in 2001—before the world had heard from Kanye West, Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga.  There have been seismic changes in the way that rap and rock and pop have intersected since then, not to mention how music is delivered. And yet, the four members of No Doubt seem to have been largely hermetically sealed in a time capsule for the last decade.  If anything, on “Push And Shove,” the band looks back at the synth-drenched ‘80s for inspiration, rather than to any of today’s hitmakers.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. By the time “Rock Steady” came out, No Doubt had done a wonderful (and tremendously) successful job of blending rock, pop and ska, while lead singer Gwen Stefani had perfected the alternately wounded bird/rising Phoenix trope that made her so appealing.

Marriage and motherhood have not quelled many of  Stefani’s doubts, even if she can confidently boast in the horn-laden, rollicking “Looking Hot,” we are free to stare at her “ragamuffin...and take a picture please.”

The passage of time has given the band added musical confidence. No Doubt has always had a muscularity— bolstered primarily by Tony Kanal’s funky bass playing and Adrian Young’s robust drumming— that anchors its otherwise fairly lightweight melodies and lyrics. It is now accompanied by a pleasing certitude that replaces an earlier brashness.

Throughout the Mark "Spike" Stent-produced “Push And Shove,” the band skips through different beats and tempos with a firm hand that less assured acts could not pull off and that, at times, threaten to give the listener whiplash.  First single, reggae-tinged “Settle Down” time shifts throughout, but it has nothing on the title track, which breaks down into a dub step section—in one of the few concessions to current musical trends. The song, a collaboration with Major Lazer, then transforms to running in slow-motion, as if dragging through tar. It then speeds up for a rapid-fire rap from Jamaican rapper Busy Signal (He's this album's Bounty Hunter."). “Push  & Shove” is a bit busy and overly ambitious, but No Doubt somehow pulls it off.

Underneath it all, Stefani is a throwback to girl group singers of yore —even if her vulnerability often comes with an armor veneer— and No Doubt is a pure pop band. A three-song arc midway through the album focuses solely on those aspects.

On the poppy “Gravity,” a love song presumably to husband Gavin Rossdale, Stefani ruminates on how lucky they are that their relationship has gravity that tethers the two of them together.  “We’re in orbit/so we’re safe. Don’t let go/don’t ever let me float away,” she sings as laser effects torpedo through the song. It’s totally possible to imagine Belinda Carlisle singing this song 25 years ago, especially given the lighthearted, synth bridge.

For the peppy, sweet “Undercover,” those doubts creep back in. “I want to look down deep inside you and I want to come in but I can’t do it/I’m so scared of what I might find there.”

Things go from bad to worse on acoustic ballad “Undone,” the album’s most striking track.
The protagonist has fallen apart. “Just when it was getting good/why does it have to end/I don’t understand,” she sings as she pleads for her lover not to leave her behind.

The good times have returned by the boppy “Heaven” and the wistful “Dreaming the Same Dream,” both of which sound like outtakes from a Madonna album circa 1985. 

“Push And Shove” is a solid, consistent album that isn’t afraid to embrace the multitude of styles that No Doubt has built its 20-year  career upon. It’s the sound of a band that is very comfortable in its own skin, but still wants to challenge itself. At the same time, "Push & Shove" has nothing that seems as forward thinking or as career defining as “Just A Girl,” “Spiderwebs” or “Hey Baby," though with a little wind beneath its wings, "Undone" could be this decade's equivalent of "Don't Speak."

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<p>Rihanna's &quot;Diamonds&quot; single cover</p>

Rihanna's "Diamonds" single cover

Credit: Def Jam

Mark your calendar for Rihanna's new single, 'Diamonds'

Her perpetual music machine never stops

Rihanna will release her new single, “Diamonds,” on Wednesday at 8 a.m. EDT.

The song is the first single from her seventh studio album, which will come out before the end of 2012.

Rihanna’s dominance at pop radio is due, in part, to her continuous outpouring of music. Most pop artists take some time off between album cycles: not Rihanna. This new album will make her fourth consecutive album released in the fourth quarter since 2009.  The only year she has not released a new album since her 2005 debut was in 2008. Even country artists don't keep up that pace. It used to be that you could set your clock to country to your favorite country artist: they released a new album every year. In part, that was because their fans expected it, but it was also because they tended not to write much of their own material.  A producer would help select the cuts, hire the studio musicians, etc. and the artist would spend a few days or weeks (max) in the studio. However, as country artists started writing more of their own material, they too have spread out their release cycle to every 18-to-24 months.

Not only is Rihanna prolific, but her label tends to release at least four singles from each set. Her six available albums have yielded 30 Hot 100 charting songs. She’s logged 11 No. 1s and a total of 20 Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Given the speed of her output, it’s no surprise that she reached that number faster than any other solo artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. Only the Beatles landed 20 top 10 singles faster than Rihanna.

“Diamonds” is also the name of Rihanna’s previously announced world tour, which kicks off in Buffalo, N.Y. on March 8.

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<p>Billie Joe Armstrong performs with&nbsp;Green Day at the iHeartRadio festival over the weekend. The singer launched into a tirade near the end of the band's set and stormed offstage, but not before smashing a guitar on the way out.</p>

Billie Joe Armstrong performs with Green Day at the iHeartRadio festival over the weekend. The singer launched into a tirade near the end of the band's set and stormed offstage, but not before smashing a guitar on the way out.

Credit: Eric Reed/Invision/AP

Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong enters rehab after Las Vegas outburst

Watch: Frontman freaks out at Clear Channel's iHeartRadio Festival

Following his outburst at Clear Channel’s IHeartRadio conference in Las Vegas Friday night, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has entered rehab.

“Billie Joe is seeking treatment for substance abuse,” the band announce in a statement on its website today. “We would like everyone to know that our set was not cut short by Clear Channel and to apologize to those we offended at the iHeartRadio Festival in Las Vegas.  We regretfully must postpone some of our upcoming promotional appearances.”

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Credit: AP Photo/Starpix, Kristina Bumphrey

Pink is poised to land her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200

Can she come out on top of Kanye West's 'Cruel Summer?'

The debuts just keep coming on the Billboard 200. After seven new titles bowed this week, it looks like six albums will premiere in the top 10 next week.

Pink will land her first No. 1 with “The Truth About Love,” which will likely sell up to 245,000 albums, outpacing Kanye West/ G.O.O.D. Music’s “Cruel Summer” by as much as 50,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double.

The Killers “Battle Born” will be the third title of the week to surpass 100,000 units, coming in at No. 3 with sales of up to 120,000 copies.

This week’s No. 1 album, Dave Matthews Band’s “Away From The World,” will drop to No. 4, while the No. 2 album, Little Big Town’s “Tornado” will fall to No. 5. 

Grizzly Bear’s “Shields” is looking good to bow at No. 6, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Kiss” at No. 7.

Bob Dylan’s “Tempest” drops five places to No. 8, and country singer Easton Corbin’s “All Over The Road” debuts at No. 9. Adele’s “21” comes back into the Top 10 after landing at No. 12 this week .

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<p>The official cover art for Michael Jackson's &quot;Bad 25.&quot;</p>

The official cover art for Michael Jackson's "Bad 25."

Credit: Sony Legacy

Revisiting Michael Jackson's 'Bad' 25 years later

How has the post-'Thriller' album held up?

This week, to celebrate the silver anniversary of Michael Jackson’s now classic “Bad” album,  Epic/Legacy released a deluxe 3 CD/1 DVD version of the set Tuesday.

For those old enough to remember, the set was MJ’s seventh studio album and his follow-up to “Thriller.” Tales run rife of Jackson putting up notes with “100 Million” on them all over the studio to remind him of his sales target...as if he weren’t under enough pressure.

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<p>Foo Fighters</p>

Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters, Neil Young, Black Keys unite to end poverty with Sept. 29 concert

Central Park show will beam free over cable and internet outlets

Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Neil Young with Crazy HorseBand of Horses and K’Naan will play a free show in New York’s Central Park next Saturday for the Global Poverty Project.

All 60,000 tickets have been spoken for, but the Global Citizen Festival will be streamed live on Vevo, YouTube, AOL/Huffington Post, Yahoo, NewYorkTimes.com, and VH1.com. Additionally, Palladia and Fuse will carry it on U.S. television.

The awareness event, produced by AEG Network Live, is labeled as a “mass movement to end extreme poverty.” The Global Citizen Festival ties in with the UN General Assembly, which will be held next week in New York, as well as with a number of non-profit programs.

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<p>One Direction's Live While We're Young</p>

One Direction's Live While We're Young

Credit: Columbia

Watch: One Direction wants to 'get some' in new clip for 'Live While We're Young'

Will the little girls understand the subtext?

Our boys are growing up. Not only are the members of One Direction ripping off The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” in the intro to “Live While We’re Young,” they’re ready to “pretend it’s love” and “get some” since “it’s now or never.”

Even though they never are so blatant about it that booty call subtext can’t go right over their tween audience’s head, there’s no mistaking lines like “if we get together, don’t let the pictures ever leave your phone” for anyone who’s 13 or up.

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<p>Maroon 5</p>

Maroon 5

Maroon 5 takes 'One More Night' to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100

Pink and Fun. move up

Maroon 5 reaches the Billboard Hot 100 summit for the third time as “One More Night” rises 2-1 this week.
The second single from the band’s current album, “Overexposed,” achieves what first single “Payphone,” could not. That tune stalled at No. 2. Maroon 5’s previous chart toppers were 2007’s “Makes Me Wonder” and last year’s “Moves Like Jagger” featuring Christina Aguilera.

“One More Night” knocks Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” out of the top spot. The song spent three weeks at No. 1 and drops to No. 2 this week.

No new titles make their way into the Top 10 this week as last week’s slate shifts minimally. Fun.’s “Some Nights” rises one spot to No. 3, trading places with Flo Rida’s former No. 1, “Whistle,” which falls  to No. 4, according to Billboard.

Both Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and  Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” featuring Big Sean climb one spot each as “Blow Me” moves 6-5 and “As Long as You Love Me” 7-6.

Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” falls 5-7, Alex Clare’s “Too Close” inches 10-8,  Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City’s “Good Time” holds at No. 9 and Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks”  drops 8-10.

Two songs will likely burst into the Top 10 next week: Psy’s “Gangnam Style” soars 64-11 this week, while Kayne West’s “Clique” featuring Jay-Z and Big Sean jumps 55-12.

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Ke$ha sets release date for new album, 'Warrior'

Star-studded album includes collabs with Patrick Carney, Iggy Pop and Wayne Coyne

Ke$ha will release, “Warrior,”  her sophomore full-length album Dec. 4.

Dr. Luke executive produced the party-til-you-puke performer’s set. Among Ke$ha’s collaborators are will.i.am, Max Martin, Benny Blanco, Cirkut, Bonnie McKee, The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Iggy Pop, The Black Keys' Patrick Carney, Ben Folds and Greg Kurstin.

Fans got a taste of the first single, “Die Young,” which Ke$ha co-wrote with fun.’s Nate Ruess, Dr. Luke, Blanco, and Cirkut, last week when she dropped two short clips of her whistling and performing the song in a Tokyo subway to no reaction from her fellow passengers...at all. If the snot snippet was any indication, she is trying to leave her spoken lyrics about being a sodden party girl behind and turn into a full-fledged singer. (Her reformation began with her cover of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” last year for a Bob Dylan tribute for Amnesty International.)

“Warrior” is the follow-up to Ke$ha’s debut album, “Animal,” which sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide on the back of such hits as “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R.” A companion EP, “Cannibal,” came out in late 2010.

“I am so excited to finally share ‘Warrior’ with all of my amazing Animals,” Ke$ha said in a statement. “I’ve been working for a year on this new record and have collaborated with some of my idols. This process has been long and intense and I couldn’t be more stoked to share this music. I hope with ‘Warrior’ my fans get to know me in a much more raw and vulnerable way.


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