Lady Gaga, Jimmy Eat World, Leonard Cohen And More Music Reviews

Get the reviews of the latest from Jimmy Eat World, Leonard Cohen and more.

ByAllan Raible
October 26, 2016, 6:28 AM

— -- intro: This week Lady Gaga makes a striking, revamped return, Jimmy Eat World offers up one of the best albums of their career, Leonard Cohen gets dark, the Pretenders return with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys handling production, David Bowie’s musical “Lazarus” gets a cast recording which includes his last songs, singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke explores love, loss and religion and Boston power-poppers Letters To Cleo return with a sharp new EP. It’s another week with another wide variety of new records to explore.

quicklist: 1title: Lady Gaga’s “Joanne” (Deluxe Edition) ****text: If you scroll through YouTube, you can easily find footage of a teenage Stefani Germanotta playing sets at The Bitter End. It seems kind of striking now, since she has reinvented herself as the larger-than-life Lady Gaga, but really if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Gaga is a singer-songwriter who just decided to work the pop angle.

Her latest album, “Joanne,” takes its title from her middle name, also the name of her late aunt. It’s also comparatively stripped-down compared to her previous work. Gone, particularly are the more garish aspects of her last solo effort, “ARTPOP.” Perhaps her work with Tony Bennett on 2014’s “Cheek To Cheek” made her aim for more of a timeless quality. Any way you slice it, though, “Joanne” stands as her most solid album to date with her singer-songwriter side more visible than ever before.

Gaga also has an interesting batch of cohorts and collaborators here. The bulk of the album was largely produced by Gaga and Mark Ronson, with various contributions from the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, Beck and Father John Misty and Florence Welch. A look at the credits and you’ll even see Sean Lennon contributing slide-guitar on “Sinner’s Prayer.” It is evident that Gaga has now surrounded herself with a very cool crowd that is both unexpected and simultaneously not surprising.

The title track and “A Million Reasons” are both stand-out ballads, while “A-YO” is a party-starting jam. “Dancin’ In Circles” is a reggae-tinged ode to self-love that probably belongs with Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop” and Prince’s “Darling Nikki.” “Perfect Illusion” is a booming show-stopper thick with eighties, area-rock cheese.

While this seems fresh and somewhat organic from Gaga, there’s also a vaguely Western theme going through the record. This mood hits its apex most likely on the unusual but rousing, “John Wayne.”

The deluxe edition comes packaged with three extra tracks that don’t diminish the album. The alternate “(Work Tape)” version of “Angel Down,” in particular provides an interesting comparison to the version that closes the standard set.

In all, “Joanne” not only sheds Gaga of the Madonna-comparisons she earned in the past, but it helps her leap firmly into her own unique space. More than before, this album is a braver move than her previous work. It maintains the pop charm on some level but adds a more concrete sense of artistry. Gaga walks the line between pop star and singer-songwriter quite skillfully. She remains a stunning entertainer while finding her own path.

Focus Tracks:

“Joanne” This folk-driven title-track is a definite eye-opener and should widen her fan base considerably. It’s a beautifully written and emotionally gripping song.

“Million Reasons” This piano-driven hymn of sorts is already on its way to being one of the set’s standout hits.

"Hey Girl" (Featuring Florence Welch) This duet with Florence Welch finds the two singers meeting over a funky groove that vaguely recalls Frank Ocean’s track, “Super Rich Kids.” Welch and Gaga make a winning combination. Both have artistic cred and both have incredibly powerful voices.

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