New releases from Lady Gaga, Leonard Cohen, and Gang of Four 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Lady Gaga
  • Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga



File next to: Florence Welch, Alicia Keys, Charli XCX

Now that her Broadway standards have won over MOR minions, Lady Gaga can do whatever she wants, free of the need to prove anything. Joanne has been both praised or damned as Gaga's country or soft-rock album, but it's more a piece of swaggering Americana rock, displaying a bit of twang on tracks like "John Wayne," but also showing more straight-up rock beats than Gaga's norm with the likes of "Diamond Heart." It's no accident that she pairs with Florence Welch in "Hey Girl," since both offer similar diva qualities when they aim for the arena stage rather than the dance floor. Moving from dance to rock-pop entails a bit of risk, but something in Joanne's coherence suggests it may go down as Gaga's best work to date, or at least the album with the widest appeal. — LW

click to enlarge Leonard Cohen
  • Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

You Want it Darker


File next to: Nick Cave, Richard Buckner, Scott Walker

Leonard Cohen might never have released this album without crucial production and arranging help from his son Adam. The elder Cohen, 82, is suffering excruciating back pain, and has taken his often-morbid lyrics to new depths. Adam Cohen usually finds just the right accompaniment, such as David Davidson's violin on the tracks "It Seemed the Better Way" and "Steer Your Way." At other times, father and son can go overboard, as evidenced by the choir on the title track. The lyrics are acerbic and necessary dismissals of the human condition, making You Want It Darker a fine last testament, if that's what this album really is. In the aftermath of albums like Old Ideas and Popular Problems, You Want It Darker could be considered the last of a trilogy, one that stands as Cohen's defining work for the 21st century. — LW

click to enlarge Gang of Four
  • Gang of Four

Gang of Four

Live ... In the Moment


File next to: Wire, Mission of Burma

Gang of Four's four original members are often cited as punk pioneers, but the British band's music both explored and pushed well beyond the limits of punk. Like the Clash, they seamlessly added strong elements of fun and dub reggae into the mix, but the resulting sound was wholly original (and not at all like the Clash). After four albums, the lineup frayed, and though the original foursome reunited for a time in the early 2000s, the current configuration features but one founding member, guitarist Andy Gill. On last year's What Happens Next, the band moved a bit toward industrial textures. But despite the changes, the group's latest album — a live set that spotlights newer tunes plus favorites from the Gang of Four catalog — shows that nearly 40 years after their debut, the Gang's still here. — BK


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