The Queen of Pop returns with audacious ‘Madame X’ but is it the Madonna album fans really want?

Now that I’ve listened to Madonna’s latest work in its entirety, I will say the best word I can think of to describe my initial reaction is confounded. Upon first listen, the bulk of Madame X strikes me as material left over from Rebel Heart, but the outtakes from those sessions were actually more exciting than most of what Madonna serves up here. Throughout the album’s duration, I sometimes found myself dazzled, yet other times I was fully disheartened. The only things here that come close to being creatively interesting are: “Dark Ballet” (with its quasi-classical break), the choir laden and danceable “God Control” and the self-referential “Extreme Occident.” Unfortunately, the annoyingly repetitious “Crazy” sounds like a bad Taylor Swift song that you hope you never have to listen to again.

The closest things you’ll find resembling “classic” Madonna here are: the danceable “I Don’t Search I Find,” the downbeat balladry of “Looking for Mercy” and the declaration of perseverance testament “I Rise.” These particular highlights sound as if the best parts of Madonna’s talent were determined to escape Jeff Bhasker, Jason Evigan and Mirwais’ heavy-handed production stratagems. [Read full review here]

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Harry Styles Emerges as Rock Star on Solo Debut Album

Harry Styles: Harry Styles

What do you do in your spare time while on hiatus from one of the world’s biggest-selling and most successful boy bands? If you’re Harry Styles you use that time wisely by dropping a debut album so commanding that it makes you an instant rock star. If you disregard preconceived notions concerning boy bands, as well as stop trying to decipher if lyrical subtexts may or may not allude to Taylor Swift, you will hear the emerging talent of an undeniably credible solo artist. Harry Styles effectually straddles the line between do-it-yourself production qualities and cock rock.

Harry Styles won’t stop Directioners from wondering if and when the notorious boy band will reunite, but it certainly affirms Styles has the goods to become a major solo star. It’s also utterly refreshing to hear a young artist embrace the use of organic elements such as strings, guitar, and choir instead of opting for the exhausted generic sounding beat-driven production gimmicks currently permeating the musical landscape. [Read Full Review]

Watch the “Sign of the Times” Music Video:

The Serious Genius of Father John Misty’s ‘Pure Comedy’

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

At first glance, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy might sound like the recorded version of a clergyman moonlighting as a stand-up comic, but in actuality it’s the latest studio album from the former Fleet Foxes drummer. Try to imagine Elton John as an American folk artist with lyrics penned by Randy Newman or Conor Oberst, and you’ll have an entry point into the sardonic, acid-tongued, yet filmic world of singer-songwriter Father John Misty (née Josh Tillman).

While Pure Comedy periodically sounds like the type of luciferous debut album Aimee Mann or Kate Bush might’ve composed had they been born male, only time and perspective will ultimately determine if this turns out to be Father John Misty’s career-defining album, although he’s undeniably grabbed our attention.

[Read Full Review]