Janet Jackson returns, unbroken.
When I think of Janet, I think of innovation, social consciousness and silky, seductive pop. Unbreakable (her first release since brother Michael’s death in 2009) delivers on all counts, aided by fresh yet restrained production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Janet herself waxes reflective: “Wherever life takes me,” goes “Well Traveled,” “I’m willing to go.” –Party Ben
A decidedly sophomore UN-slump from these San Francisco post punks.
While Let It Pretend shares plenty of sonic DNA with Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon debut, the new songs sound more like Patti Smith fronting ‘70s era Devo – or a grittier, garage rockier Pretenders. Tracks like “Cataract” fuse ‘80s MTV rock to sinewy, angular, post-punk; delivering some seriously addictive, retro-pop action! –Andee Connors
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Miley Cyrus debuts award-worthy new ballad.
The Linda Perry-penned “Hands Of Love” is an emotional anthem for the new gay-rights biopic, Freeheld, starring Ellen Page and Julianne Moore. Using her gravelly falsetto to sound as powerful and heartbreaking as ever, could this soundtrack’s single possibly score Miley an invitation to next year’s Oscars? –Michelle Solomon
On the surface they both seem to keep on keepin’ on, but that belies the relentless experimentation that drives both bands to continue making interesting records 30-plus years on. And make no mistake: Gates of Gold is an interesting record as well as a beautiful one. Hats off to a true American classic! –Diego Gonzalez
Americana veterans bestow a near-perfect 10th studio album.
Unlike many Americana newcomers and reunion acts, The Bottle Rockets never stopped recording and touring after their 1992 eponymous debut. In a just world, they’d be as popular as Drive-By Truckers or Lucinda Williams. South Broadway Athletic Club is a roots rocking LP rife with catchy workingman anthems sung over jangly twang-rock. –Eric Shea
Coming to the Stage: Season Two doubles down on new comics.
The Hulu comedy showcase comes out strong in its second season. Dan Levy hosts up-and-coming talents Eddie Della Siepe, Megan Koester, Josh Fadem, Rhea Butcher, Ashley Barnhill and many more as they slay the crowd in this series of shows recorded in Burbank, CA. –Kelly Anneken
Swedish quartet rocks as though the last few decades never happened.
What is it with Swedish rockers? Like Dungen, Graveyard, Witchcraft, Ghost Horisont, etc.; Old Man’s Will are so period-correct in their winsome retro-rock that they even dress like rotary telephone users. Hard Times – Troubled Man would sound best blasted from the 8-track deck of a 1973 Plymouth Road Runner. –Eric Shea