Lady Antebellum may have won Grammys for their last two albums (2010's Need You Now and 2011's Own the Night), but this, their fifth full-lengther, takes the gold as their best yet. Golden radiates a soft-rock shimmer that is more '70s California than old-school Nashville. (No matter, country purists gave up on them a long time ago.) Songs like "Better Off Now (That You're Gone)," a breezy, harmony-sweetened kiss-off led by Charles Kelley, cast Lady A as Music City's answer to Fleetwood Mac—minus the intergroup romantic drama. Elsewhere, two other Kelley showcases take you back to AM's glory days: the tender title tune, which brings to mind the gentle folk beauty of Dan Fogelberg, and "Better Man," a lilting, mandolin-laced nod to James Taylor. But the trio also give props to the '80s: The wistful "Goodbye Town" boasts echoes of U2, while another nostalgic spin, the Hillary Scott-fronted "Long Teenage Goodbye," feels like Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69" twanged up for the summer of '13.
DIXIE CHICK FLIES SOLO!
It may be her first solo album, but Dixie Chick Natalie Maines still revels in the spirit of collaboration. She's just found herself a Dixie Dude instead: Ben Harper, who produced Mother with Maines, appears on every cut (as guitarist, vocalist and percussionist) and had a hand in writing three of the four new songs (including their bluesy duet "Trained"). Six other tracks are covers, from the Pink Floyd title tune to a killer rendition of Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over." Although the mix is a bit random, it gives Maines a chance to brandish a decided rock edge—even when the song ("Come Cryin' to Me") was originally intended for Dixie Chicks.
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THE GREAT GATSBY
Executive producer (and featured performer) Jay-Z has pulled a Gatsby with a lavish, star-studded album befitting Leonardo DiCaprio
's new blockbuster. Everyone from Fergie
and Jack White to Florence + the Machine and Mrs. Jay-Z, Beyoncé
, joins the party with cool covers and new tunes that evoke the spirit of the Roaring '20s and capture the sumptuous splendor of the film. Highlights include Emeli Sandé's jazzy revamp of "Crazy in Love" and Gotye's "Hearts a Mess," a lost gem from 2006 that is rich in cinematic atmospherics.
The second album by Miranda Lambert's girl group doesn't outgun the new solo set from Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe (Like a Rose). But despite some tossed-off moments, they are still sharp shooters on tunes like "Unhappily Married."
Fitz and the Tantrums
More than Just a Dream
Next time you feel yourself about to throw a hissy fit, crank up the soulful pop of this L.A. sextet. Feel-good grooves like "Out of My League," the first single, bounce like a more fun version of Fun.
Spirit in the Room
"I was born like this, I had no choice / I was born with the gift of a golden voice," sings Jones on Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song." Amen to that. With blues and gospel spirit, these covers are a rootsy revelation.
The Airborne Toxic Event
Such Hot Blood
On their third album, these alt-rockers sound like they have the Killers, the Replacements and Counting Crows in their blood. Even if they may lack a singular identity, they still know how to deliver strong songs.