Is this the dawning of a new golden age in pop? Well, maybe not something that serious, but Nick Jonas is the latest (and maybe greatest) figure in this major crop of stars who switched up from their kid past to make music built to last. In addition to former child stars, alt-rock heroes Garbage return with a new LP, Fitz and the Tantrums bring another round of power-pop, Radiohead finally put In Rainbows on Spotify (!), in addition to new albums from Peter Bjorn and John, Eli “Paperboy” Reid, Diarrhea Planet, and many more. Here are the albums you need to hear this week.
Nick Jonas – Last Year Was Complicated
2015 for Nick Jonas was a transformative year in the eyes of general listeners. Like many of his former kid star contemporaries, he struck up to show that he was interested in making the leap to a more mature sound. Often, that attempt can feel hollow, touching on what superficially seems “adult” but more likely resembles when a high schooler smokes cigarettes. But Jonas’ debut was a smash, lead by the infectious “Jealous,” and now he’s back to double down on the success with Last Year Was Complicated.
Now that he’s gotten the proving out of the way, he can explore what kind of artist he wants to be in this next phase of his life. Songs like “Close,” a poignant duet with Swedish pop sensation Tove Lo, shows the cuts and bruises that a previous Jonas would not have allowed. Last Year Was Complicated serves as a breakup album, yes, but nothing is panicked or over-emotional here. It’s more of the vulnerability of a man who is looking to move on, but not exactly sure where to go. Of all the young stars who turned pro in his class, Nick Jonas is far above the rest.
Garbage – Strange Little Birds
Back in 1995, Garbage sounded ahead of their time. It’s truly a testament to their mettle and inventiveness that they’ve been around so long to see their sound be coopted, used up, then become in vogue again. Strange Little Birds, their sixth LP, feels like a return to the band’s roots, with lead single “Empty” sounding straight out of the mid 90s with combat boots and nose rings in tow.
Garbage always have a special way of tapping into a raw sound with the assist of bandmate and legendary producer Butch Vig, and there’s a certain heavy specter that hangs about the LP, a darkness that isn’t found many other places in mainstream rock. It isn’t overt, but rather a feeling. Shirley Manson is one of very few people who can lasso this emotion and present it in a way which makes you sympathize rather than bogging you down.
Fitz and the Tantrums – Fitz and the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums occupy this strange space of bands that can often get pegged as the same homogenized, festival-core power pop groups that aim to cast a wide net without really saying anything. But that’s the strange phenomenon pop rock bands; there’s a constant struggle between appearing authentic as a rock band and also writing incredibly catchy earworms as a pop act. It’s easy to become a prisoner of your success if a track of yours gets snapped up a commercial or some other sort of sync. Here’s the long and short of it: If you enjoy pop rock, there’s probably something to like about Fitz and the Tantrums and their self-titled, third LP.
Here are the rest of the week’s new releases:
Peter Bjorn & John – Breakin’ Point
Beach Boys – Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Edition
Radiohead – In Rainbows [New to Spotify]
Little Big Town – Wanderlust
Eli “Paperboy” Reid – My Way Home
Band of Horses – Why are you OK?
Chrisette Michelle – Milestone
Nite Jewel – Liquid Cool
Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold
Leslie Odom Jr. [Hamilton] – Leslie Odom Jr.
Young Chop – King Chop
Wye Oak – Tween
Jon Bellion – The Human Condition
They Might Be Giants – Phone Power
The Temper Trap – Thick as Thieves
Alexis Taylor – Piano
The Veronicas – In My Blood
Mozzy – Mandatory Check
Leapling – Suspended Animation
Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle – Colvin & Earle
Switchfoot – Where the Light Shines Through