“The Ballad of Mona Lisa”

Panic! at the Disco

Vices and Virtues

4 stars

The band releases its first album since becoming a duo. “The Ballad of Mona Lisa” is one of the strongest songs, featuring driving guitar, ringing bells and staccato strings piercing the background, complete with a few tempo changes that keep you on your toes. It’s a little less over the top than some other Panic! songs, which in this case is great.

 

“Butter Knives”

Raekwon

Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang

2 stars

Raekwon brings us back to the past, with old-school beats, gritty lyrics, and scratchy, fuzzy melodies. Regaling the audience with stories about knife fights, shootouts and the rough life on the streets, it feels like we’re back in the ’90s, kicking back to some classic hip-hop. This is signature Raekwon, but is this style still relevant today?

 

“Are You Ready?”

Richard Ashcroft

United Nations of Sound

4 stars

From the man who sang “Bittersweet Symphony” comes a solo album all about God and the rest of the universe. “Are You Ready?” is Ashcroft’s take on gospel, with a bluesy-rockish twist, soaring violins and a shredding guitar solo. He’s musing about his life and the Day of Judgment, so the lyrics might seem a little sappy. But I’d rather listen to this than the same old from the guy on the left.

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