Nelly Furtado — Loose
Whoa Nelly! She is back with what she calls her "fun-packed" third album. Mostly produced by Timbaland, Loose breaks away from folk pop and heads straight for hip-hop. Opener Afraid sparks off an instant rush with its pulsating notes. The hit single, Like I Love You, is a giddy club anthem that recalls tracks such as I Got a Man and LL Cool J’s Doin It. There is plenty to enjoy here, from the intergalactic No Hay Igual to the Mid-Eastern Wait For You. Maneater is sandwiched between the similarly paced Afraid and Promiscuous. The former is an R & B number with a rap by Attitude. Te Busque is a strong representation of the second half of the album. This pretty tune talks about heartbreak and features a nifty chorus, with lyrics like "I look in the mirror the picture’s getting clearer/ I wanna be myself but does the world really need her/ I ache for this earth/ I stopped going to church/ See god in the trees makes me fall to my knees." The hit Promiscuous is clearly the centrepiece of this album.
Best track: Wait For You
Worst track: Showtime
Pet Shop Boys — Fundamental (EMI)
The ninth studio album from the iconic synth pop stars starts promisingly well, with leadoff track Psychological and The Sodom and Gomorrah Show showing the Pet Shop Boys at their most flamboyant. A politically charged album that’s free from musical sparks, Fundamental touches on the war in Iraq (I’m With Stupid, Twentieth Century), troubles faced by immigrants to the UK (Integral, Indefinite Leave To Remain) and the paranoia of the age (Psychological). Legendary producer Trevor Horn, who last worked on Left to My Own Devices, has done his utmost to create a big, dramatic sound — the sweeping synths on The Sodom And Gomorrah Show are gloriously theatrical, while You Choose is full on orchestral numbers with melancholic themes of love. The Diane Warren-penned Numb and Luna Park drag things down mid-disc, but the final third of the album is blistering, with Tennant and Lowe marching aloft. Minimal does a detour into old-school synth-pop, while Twentieth Century adds so much harmony and shine that it just grows on you. The sweeping strings and rhythmic simplicity of I Made My Excuses And Left make it one of those sad ballads and it suits Neil Tennant’s voice really well. The Boys mean business.
Best track: Psychological
Worst track: Jealousy
Allison Moorer — Getting
Allison Moorer has made a career out of plucky moves and sudden changes in course. Getting Somewhere marks her most radical shift yet, as she reinvents herself as a modern adult rocker more akin to Liz Phair or Aimee Mann than the Southern-styled Americana artist she’s been known as. The new songs blend airy string arrangements with thumping, low-strung rockers reminiscent of the recent work by Steve Earle. The heavier arrangements, as on the tragic family tale New Year’s Day or the upbeat melodic rock Work to Do, leave enough room for Moorer’s expressive voice. The headliners include Hallelujah, Where Are You and You’ll Never Know. There are several strong selections, including the stirring Where You Are, which she dedicates to her sister Shelby Lynne. But overall Moorer’s distinctive style seems overly restricted by her transformation.
Best track: How She Does It
Worst track: Getting Somewhere
Top 10 singles
CU (coming up); NM (non-mover);
FD (falling down); NE (new