After a four-year hiatus, Christina Aguilera returns with her fourth album Bionic this week. On her 2006 double disc Back to Basics, Aguilera channeled Billie Holiday and John Coltrane — but now she’s returning in a post-Gaga pop music landscape. To compete with the breakout pop star, Aguilera adds Auto-Tune, robot glam and electro-pop to her arsenal on Bionic — with mixed results. While the disc has standouts like the M.I.A.-co-authored “Elastic Love” and “My Girls” (featuring Peaches), “things stall mid-album with a string of dull ballads — ‘Sex for Breakfast’ is cold cereal, and ‘Lift Me Up’ is the inevitable Linda Perry snoozer,” contributing editor Rob Sheffield writes in his two-and-a-half star review. Even all-star collaborations with Sia, Le Tigre, Tricky Stewart and Nicki Minaj don’t help much either.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is one of the most anticipated movies of the summer — and it also delivers one of the best soundtracks. Muse, Band of Horses, the Dead Weather, Metric, Vampire Weekend, and Beck contribute surprising songs that loyal fans may not expect. Muse provides the soundtrack’s first single with their grandiose “Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever),” which sounds like a slight curve ball from the prog-rockers’ normal sound. “It’s fun to hear A-list rockers tweak their sound,” writes Christian Hoard in his three-and-a-half star review. “Vampire Weekend seem particularly heated on the sweeping ‘Jonathan Low,’ and Cee-Lo Green delivers the New Wave charmer ‘What Part of Forever’ in a clipped, breathy croon.” Other highlights include the Dead Weather’s “Rolling in on a Burning Tire” and the beautiful Beck and Bat For Lashes duet “Let’s Get Lost.”
For their new disc White Crosses, Florida punks Against Me! reunite with Green Day producer Butch Vig for a new set of lefty anthems. Like Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, Against Me! are thinking big this time around. As Hoard notes in his three-star review, that ambition can get a little overbearing, but on cuts like the title track, frontman Tom Gabel delivers “righteous, churning gut-rollers.” The album does represent a step forward for the group, however. “Some cynicism crept into Tom Gabel’s lyrics,” Hoard writes. “‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist’ is blazing Springsteen emo, as Gabel decries the misguided revolutionary politics of his youth.”