CD reviews: Taylor Swift, Ne-Yo, Gracenote

By Jackie Dosmanos

Posted at Jan 13 2013 02:06 PM | Updated as of Jan 14 2013 07:03 PM

Taylor Swift

"Red"

Her hit singles do not do Taylor Swift justice. They pin her either as a country music mouse or just another pop muse. That she’s blonde and darn pretty only reinforces remarks about the inverse relation between being blonde and I. Q. level.

Taylor Swift 

Swift’s latest album, "Red," taken as a body of work, should put them all to rest, and in grand fashion at that. The album is one of the finest crossovers of urban country into pop-rock in a long while. It has already given her critical acclaim, landing among the 30 best albums of 2012 and its well-rounded production should extend its appeal beyond last year’s favorite record among twenty-somethings.

Swift sings about heartaches and heartbreaks. When she’s in a glum mood, the singer draws from the country tradition that dates back to Patsy Cline. When she’s in a mischievous disposition, she vaporizes boyfriend blues with hook-laden, guitar-driven pop. Watch out for the waltzing bluegrass that fuels “Stay Stay Stay” to the stratosphere. 

The hooks are simply all over "Red" such that the album raises more goose pimples than the latest boy-band craze. Spread the red carpet for the newest pop queen.

Ne-Yo
"R. E. D."

The past two years have been rather unkind to Ne-Yo. First, he got embroiled in charges of sexual misconduct sleeping with a 16-year old prostitute. Next, Bruno Mars managed to score better chart success telling true tales of love and misconduct over Ne-Yo’s sort of neo-soul revue.

Ne-Yo 

R&B star Ne-Yo works out potential frustrations by producing a new album that plays to his strengths. Or, some new tricks up his ample sleeves anyway. In "R.E.D." (which stands for Realizing Every Dream), he’s cool updating R. Kelly in the love croons and upgrading Usher’s thumping R&B.

Ne-Yo retains the trappings of an unreconstructed romantic who can’t seem to get his hands off every lady that crosses his fancy. In song after song, he vacillates between being faithful and deceitful to his current flame.
He’s just as quick detailing bedroom acrobatics in an illicit affair (“Cracks In Mr. Right,” “Stress Reliever”) and kicking the boot on an errant lover (“Jealous”). Despite the double standard, our lover boy still issuing tips on family, responsibility, and stability.

You have to take the lyrics with a grain of salt. It’s the only way to enjoy the love songs and dance like crazy to the ass shakers.

Gracenote

"First Movement"

Violins in a rock ensemble! Visions of Yellowcard, or even Jean Luc Ponty can play tricks on the unsuspecting ear.

That’s visual come-on of former Nescafe Soundskool challenger Gracenote, a group composed of two guys and two gals with musical roots in Assumption College. Live, the backing section also delivers sinewy pop-punk backbeat to the frontwoman’s wails on vocals and violin.

Gracenote 

On the band’s debut entitled "First Movement" for indie Soupstar Music, the violin takes a backseat. The peculiar instrument makes occasional “guest” appearances instead allowing the band members to showcase their collective effort as a normal pop-rock unit.

They do soft-loud dynamics well in the album’s eight tracks coming on like a younger version of Callalilly. Two outstanding cuts are the lead single “Amnesia” with its attempt to bridge pop-punk with rock balladry and “”Stop Stop!” which finds the young band going after the big proggy sound beloved by the likes of U2 and Coldplay.