|Listen Up: Chris Brown, The Strokes, more|
|Updated 3/22/2011 4:36 PM ET|
Chris Brown, F.A.M.E.
* * * R&B
Chris Brown has spent the past two years reclaiming the once-mercurial career that was derailed when he assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna.
While putting the legal ramifications behind him, he took to the underground mixtape circuit to create major hits without radio support and used social networks to generate buzz about his return. He even got two Grammy nominations for third album Graffiti, which apparently came out too soon after his trouble to get a warm reception. But it is a more mature, confident and adventurous Brown who has emerged in the wake of all the drama, and he has delivered the strongest album of his career.
He's much edgier than before, which is a good thing, since the 22-year-old has clearly outgrown that nice-kid-next-door persona he had six years ago. With songs such as the dismissive Deuces, defiant Look at Me Now (featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes) and salacious Wet the Bed (featuring Ludacris), Brown is taking it to the next phase. Considering how well Deuces and Yeah 3X have performed as singles, his old fans may be coming along with him. In any case, he says he's through apologizing. Now he's Forgiving All My Enemies.— Steve Jones
>Download: previously mentioned tracks; No BS; Bomb; Paper, Scissors, Rock; Love the Girls; She Ain't You
OTHER NEW RELEASES
The Strokes, Angles
Five years after the uneven First Impressions of Earth, Julian Casablancas and company are charging back with theirfinest, most exciting record since 2001's elegantly hip This Is It. Considering the internal friction and scrapped sessions on Angles' rocky ride to completion, it's an assured, neatly executed, energetic return to form, buzzing with bravado, petulance, snapping rhythms and dovetailing guitars. And for all its cool ennui, the band's sly neo-retro garage rock radiates surprising warmth and romance. — Edna Gundersen
>Download: Gratisfaction, Under Cover of Darkness, Life Is Simple in the Moonlight, Call Me Back
Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now
* * * ROCK
For those who still smart a little over Union of the Snake, Duran Duran's All You Need Is Now (released on iTunes in December) will serve as a make-good 26 years later. Working with British producer Mark Ronson, the group re-creates the Rio-era sound that helped them become global fashion-conscious superstars, right down to the slap bass and synthesizer arpeggios. If this is the synth-pop equivalent of the revival efforts for '60s R&B and country singers, it's a successful one: Now may be all you need, but tracks such as Girl Panic! and Runway Runaway make now sound like 1983. — Brian Mansfield
>Download: All You Need Is Now, Girl Panic!
Panic! At the Disco, Vices & Virtues
* * * BAROQUE POP
Panic! is down to just a duo — frontman Brendon Urie and percussionist Spencer Smith — but that doesn't mean the act has seen its creativity cut in half. This Butch Walker-produced set caroms wildly from campy cabaret-style pop to cleverly eclectic rock. In Hurricane, Urie sings, almost as a taunt, that "you'll dance to anything." Well, sure, if it's this engaging. — Mansfield
>Download: The Ballad of Mona Lisa, Mistakes, Always
Gucci Mane, Return of Mr. Zone 6
* * RAP
This is the Atlanta rapper's third album in as many years despite his numerous legal and personal issues. It finds him, once again, boasting about stacking paper and running the streets. And unlike last year's The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted, which had a touch of mainstream polish thanks to big-name producers Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes and Darkchild, he keeps things grimy with longtime collaborator Drumma Boy doing the bulk of the work. Waka Flocka Flame, OJ Da Juiceman, Wale and Birdman are among guests, though Mane never strays far from his familiar sound. — Steve Jones
>Download: This Is What I Do, Pancakes, 24 Hours
|Posted 3/21/2011 7:38 PM ET|
|Updated 3/22/2011 4:36 PM ET|