Beck: ‘Morning Phase'
"Sea Change" was Beck at his most Pagliacci, pop music's prankster clown showing how he really has the feels underneath it all, but what was most stunning was how he pared down his songcraft to its most bare, the lyrics clean and direct where previously they were lost in absurdism and simile. What "Morning Phase" does differently is that there is a bit of hope tacked on to the intention of each song, a bit of sunshine baked deep inside Beck's echoing voice.
-- Evan Sawdey
Neneh Cherry: ‘Blank Project'
The artistic strength of Neneh Cherry has never been in question over the past 30-plus years. From a member of Rip Rig + Panic to the solo phenomenon of "Raw Like Sushi" to working with her husband and daughter in CirKus, Cherry has always followed her own path in her style. However, the maturation of her voice and viewpoint, as well as the renewed interest in it, is a welcome development. First with "The Cherry Thing" and now "Blank Project," Neneh Cherry has stepped back onto center stage to deserved applause.
-- Erik Highter
The Notwist: ‘Close to the Glass'
It's been a strange road for the Notwist. The German quartet has been around since the late ‘80s and as the decades have gone by they've rapidly changed sounds. Unfortunately some of the ambient noodling from "Sturm" has carried over in befuddling ways, making "Close to the Glass" an album with a few bright points overwhelmed by a lack of cohesion. The best parts of "Close to the Glass" work with folk and indie, much like Neon Golden. The first half of the album is undoubtedly the stronger side; a few tracks here are among the Notwist's best.
-- Nathan Stevens