(Virgin EMI Records)
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The worst thing that happened to George Michael was his debut, Faith, becoming an enormous success. After that, he stopped being a pop star and became an ‘artist.’ That’s great, but not much fun. He’s still chasing his misdirected muse on Symphonica, his sixth release, a collection of well-loved songs and covers performed with an orchestra. He’s in superb voice here, and he’s sure to appeal to the aging New Wave contingency looking for a Rod Stewart-type songbook set, yet I can’t help but wish Michael had spent his time writing the next “I Want Your Sex” or “Freedom ‘90.” Prime Cuts: “A Different Corner,” “Let Her Down Easy” —Dan Loughry
Kiss Me Once
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The big question Kylie Minogue wants answered in 2014 is “Can I still compete in a pop world loaded with scandals, breakdowns, obligatory guest rappers and twerking?” At 45 years old she remains the scandal-less, ‘aw shucks’ nice girl, but for her very focused 12th effort, she’s upped the sex appeal (the word sex appears in three song titles alone) and gets her hands a bit more playfully dirty. The great news is that she delivers heartily, using her varied guest collaborators (Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias and Sia, also the album’s co-executive producer) to full effect on effervescent, electro-disco pop ditties. Prime Cuts: “I Was Gonna Cancel,” “Sexy Love,” “Million Miles” —Paul V.
Tokyo Police Club
There must be something wrong with my copy of the new Tokyo Police Club album. The sleeve says Tokyo Police Club, but I’m certain this is a Kooks record. If these guys are who they say they are, this album is a complete surprise. Gone are the odd, angular melodies, replaced with breezy, summery pop tunes that sound ... well, exactly like The Kooks. That’s not an awful thing, mind you, just unexpected. Album opener “Argentina Pts 1, 2 & 3” shows a little more scope than the rest of this LP, but for the most part it’s business as usual ... for The Kooks. Prime Cuts: “Argentina,” “Toy Guns,” “Feel the Effect” —Dominik Rothbard