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Quadruple Verdict – Marina, Carrie, Santigold & Norah

Last week we were witness to an amazing onslaught of new material. That’s right, the world gained 4 excellent new albums the week of May 1st. Marina & the Diamonds unleashed her epic sophomore effort Electra Heart, Carrie Underwood gave us her fourth record Blown Away, Santigold finally returned after 4 years with Master of My Make Believe, and Norah Jones released her latest installment Little Broken Hearts. I’m very pleased with all of these releases, so I haven’t yet been able to pick a ‘winner’ of the four. However, hopefully my mini-evaluations will clear things up.

1. Electra Heart – Marina & the Diamonds

Marina’s been one of the coolest artists I’ve been following for a while. Well, this is only her second album but it seems like she’s been in the game for a long time. Electra Heart takes a more mainstream route than its predecessor and focuses on archetypes of the classic American woman. It really is quite a journey. Then again, it’s hard to ignore the punch of the opening track ‘Bubblegum Bitch.’ The tracks vary from peppy and aggressive to sultry and melodic. The record comes to an astounding finish with the extended ‘Fear and Loathing,’ which ends the album on a high note. The deluxe tracks, in my opinion, enhance the record but aren’t the same caliber as the main tracks- with the exception of ‘Radioactive.’ While ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ and ‘Buy the Stars’ are nice bonuses, I’m glad they weren’t part of the normal album. ‘Lonely Hearts Club’ is catchy, but is lacking that special something. ‘Buy the Stars’ is too much of a homage to ‘Numb,’ a track from her previous record. All in all this an amazing release, and I love just about every song. I ordered the exclusive signed deluxe from HMV (pictures forthcoming)  so it’s pretty damn fantastic.

Final Grade: 9.4/10

Standout Tracks: Primadonna, Bubblegum Bitch, The State of Dreaming, Power & Control, Fear and Loathing

Not as nice: Sex Yeah, Lonely Hearts Club, Buy the Stars

2. Blown Away – Carrie Underwood

I wasn’t sure what to think at first when Carrie announced her new record earlier this year. However, if ‘Good Girl’ was any indication the album was sure to be fantastic- and it is! Blown Away literally blew me away! I was left a bit disappointed with her previous album, Play On. The singles were excellent, but the album tracks didn’t hold up so well. However, there is no evidence of that in Blown Away. I think it’s her most cohesive work yet and -dare I say- her best album. This record brings a lot to the table, successfully blending country with a twist of mainstream pop. I don’t know about you, but I prefer ‘pure’ country in very small doses. Let’s just say, if it’s someone singing about a tractor- I’m out. I love the darkness to this record. ‘Blown Away’ and ‘Two Black Cadillacs’ put the ‘R’ in revenge. I was scared the midtempo tracks tying the ends together would be boring and annoying, but they delivered! ‘One Way Ticket’ has a slight reggae vibe- something I would never associate with Carrie. Her growth stylistically has been superb, and I think the extra time put into this release made it especially solid.

Final Grade: 9.5/10

Standout Tracks: Blown Away, Two Black Cadillacs, See You Again, Nobody Ever Told You, Good Girl, Good in Goodbye

Not as Nice: N/A

3. Master of My Make Believe – Santigold

Finally! It’s been forever since we’ve heard from Santi. Honestly, I thought she was going to pull a Lauryn Hill and go away for over a decade. It’s been almost 4 years since her debut album, but it was so worth the wait. Her unique, M.I.A-esque style sets her apart from all the other ‘alternative’ artists out there. For me, it’s been pretty quiet in the alternative genre. Most efforts released are either boring and nothing special or seriously annoying- I’m talking to you, fun.! I can see why people didn’t care for her buzz single ‘Big Mouth’ as much, but I thought it was a good track. However, ‘Disparate Youth’ freaking brought it! That my friends, is how good music is done. I’ve had ‘The Keepers’ on heavy rotation for a while now. It has an anthem-like quality to it and is majorly groovy despite the lyrics, “While we sleep in America, our house is burning down.” The only track I don’t find myself returning to often is ‘Pirate in the Water.’ It doesn’t capture my attention as much as the other songs on the record, but its production is great. So, this makes for a third virtually flawless album- all in the same week! I also highly recommend checking out the itunes bonus track ‘Never Enough.’ Tis killa!

Final Grade : 9.7/10

Standout Tracks: Disparate Youth, Fame, The Keepers, God from the Machine

Not as Nice: Pirate in the Water (it’s growing on me though!)

4. Little Broken Hearts- Norah Jones

After I saw the killer cover for this album, I was stoked to see what was in store for this release. Overall, I’m pretty pleased. This is definitely a grower though. While I enjoy most of the tracks, they do fall victim to being forgettable and a bit boring. The main gripe from most people has been that every song sounds the same, which is a valid point. The energy and tempo of the tracks remain virtually unchanging throughout the whole duration of the record. Only after repeated listens will most be able to appreciate the nuances and quirks to each track. The album’s still growing on me at the moment though. I wasn’t sold on buying this until I saw the Target edition. It contains 3 bonus tracks, one being ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear Another Sound,’ which otherwise is a Japan exclusive track. It was only after I previewed that song on Itunes Japan that I was sold on buying. That song is hands down one of the best on the record, and I can’t believe it’s not on the main album. Still, I’m liking this release more with every listen. Unfortunately, it pales a bit in comparison to the above  three albums.

Final Grade: 7.8/10

Standout Tracks: Happy Pills, I Don’t Wanna Hear Another Sound, Say Goodbye, 4 Broken Hearts

Not as Nice: After the Fall, Travelin’ On, All a Dream

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