Record Release Rundown: The Latest From U2, Ryan Adams, Robert Plant and More

Find out what you should be listening to this weekend.

ByABC News
September 14, 2014, 6:33 AM
The artwork for U2's album, "Songs of Innocence."
The artwork for U2's album, "Songs of Innocence."

— -- intro: This week U2 dropped an album that we all have if we have iTunes, Ryan Adams released a self-titled album, Robert Plant explores adventurous rhythms on his latest release, Karen O plays us some of her “Crush Songs,” Canadian rockers Sloan return with an adventurous concept album, R&B singer Jhene Aiko offers her second collection and New York’s Interpol release their first album in 4 years. Fall may not have technically begun yet, but the release schedule is back into heavy swing and we have a great deal to discuss.

quicklist: 1title: U2’s “Songs Of Innocence” ****text: On Tuesday, U2 surprised the masses by giving their new album “Songs Of Innocence” away to everyone with iTunes. (If you don’t know you have it, you do. Just search in your library for it and click on the cloud icon.) This is a wise move in the way that it gets the music out there to as many people as possible, but ultimately it is a horrific move industry-wise since it further lowers the market-value of music. (Not every band can afford to give their music away like this, but too many people expect music to be free these days thanks to the “pay-what-you-want” model that Radiohead started with their 2007 album “In Rainbows.”) Bono knows the dire state of the music industry. That’s why he insisted in a statement on the band’s website that Apple actually did pay for everyone to have a copy.

The good news is that “Songs Of Innocence” is a pretty stellar record, which is a relief. On their two previous records, “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” and “No Line In The Horizon” the band seemed adrift. Those albums each had their standout tracks but on the whole it seemed like the U2 brand without that classic urgency. This record is different. Produced mainly by Danger Mouse (with additional assistance from Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder and others) this collection allows the band to make a current-sounding record that still continues in the tradition of their discography.

“Volcano” for instance sounds like a non-political answer to the “War” classic “New Year’s Day,” even if Bono insists on inexplicably repeating the phrase “You are Rock and Roll” during the song’s bridge.

But aside from small complaints, there isn’t really a dud here. (This record doesn’t have anything as disastrous as “Get On Your Boots” thankfully.) This is just U2 delivering a tight, modern answer to their classic sound. The opener “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” allows Bono to give a shout-out to his hero and it fully works, even if it is anchored by the kind of “Whoa Whoa Whoa” chants that have been recently hijacked by lesser bands. That brand of anthemic bellowing has been one of Bono’s trademarks since the days of “I Will Follow” and “Gloria.” He’s allowed to take ownership.

“California (There Is No End To Love)” has great warmth and the digitally-soaked “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” is a throwback to the experimental “Zooropa” and decent but massively misunderstood “Pop.” Lykke Li guests nicely on the album’s closer “The Troubles” and “Iris (Hold Me Close)” is dense and enveloping.Sadly, stand-out recent single “Invisible” and the Mandela-inspired “Ordinary Love” are nowhere to be found here and their presence would have pushed this album a little further. It looks like they won’t be bonus tracks on the physical version either when it is released on October 13.