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Notable CDs

Music | Five new or recent pop-rock releases

When I’m President 

By Ian Hunter & the Rant Band

In 2009, Hunter became the first major rocker (Leonard Cohen doesn’t count) to release an album at 70. Appropriately enough, it was mellow. Now, at 73, his last-will-and-testament album behind him and apparently premature, he returns to the footloose-and-fancy-free ways of his youth, jumbling randiness and joie de vivre with only an occasional tip of the hat to the grim reaper. The title cut is even catchy enough to have conservatives chalking up its fiscal foolishness to Hunter’s being an Englishman.


By Carly Rae Jepsen

If you can forget that Jepsen is 26 and therefore really should be putting away childish things such as the music on this album, you might just find the squeaky-clean innocence of this obviously teen-targeted product reason enough to celebrate its existence. Aside from one TV-sanctioned expletive on Jepsen’s duet with Justin Bieber, top-10-selling 21st-century pop music doesn’t come more family friendly. As clean as it is though, it’s even squeakier—mainly because of Jepsen’s voice, which overstays its welcome fast.

Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe

By Various artists

Given how definitive Lowe’s own performances of his songs seem, it’s interesting how many of them sound as if they were written just for the 13 mostly country performers who’ve twanged them up specifically for this album. Not every song is taken to new heights, but one of the ones that is—kudos, Robert Ellis—is “All Men Are Liars,” a slice of insightfully misanthropic whimsy that, except for its dated Rick Astley joke, formerly seemed perfect just as it was when Lowe recorded it 22 years ago. 


By Neal Morse

Morse’s latest solo album is everything the Flying Colors album on which he recently sang and played wasn’t: namely, unabashedly Christian and full-on progressive rock on an epic scale. (At 33:39, “World Without End” is almost without end itself.) But what stands out most is “Freak,” a distinctly non-prog song that eavesdrops on the troubled but interesting inner dialogue of the kind of person whose very strangeness can make others question whether their being so at home in this world is a good thing.


The hip-hop artist Andrew Nielsen, aka MC Lars, is an American treasure, and people who don’t already know as much need only to check out his Greatest Hits (Horris) to learn the error of their ways. Besides being as hilarious as he is erudite (he couldn’t have come up with his Poe, Shakespeare, or Melville raps without sucking the marrow from “The Raven,” Hamlet, or Moby Dick respectively), Nielsen is an astute contemporary social critic with a laser gaze, seeing through garbage rap, faux punk fashion, and “hipster girls.”

About that last category—Nielsen recorded “Hipster Girl” in 2009, three years before Occupy Wall Street became hipster girls’ favorite reason to cut class. Yet he nailed the type perfectly: “She’s my trust fund baby bohemian,” he raps. “Her vegan humus keeps her thin.” Then the girl herself raps, “By the way, that pro-Bush shirt you’re wearing is making me really uncomfortable.” Ace satire. Jonathan Swift would be proud. —A.O.


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