Any positives from Pinkshinyultrablast's debut record are more or less absent in "Grandfeathered", a strange album that tries to be expansive and grandiose in its instrumentation but is weighed down by a sticky film which smothers each track, reducing the record to a pile of mush that feels the complete opposite of its namesake.
The xx's third LP boasts much brighter and bolder production than their previous efforts but still feels lacking in energy: the vocals are as detached and weary as ever and the atmosphere is often muted. Some memorable moments are scattered across the album but it contains no real outstanding tracks, making for a rather underwhelming record.
An album as restrained as "Ray of Light" actually makes perfect sense for someone like Madonna—she's never been particularly impressive vocally, after all—nevertheless it's a pleasant surprise to see her compose an album that draws from so many musical influences and unifies them all into a surprisingly candid record, in spite of potentially grating soul-searching and spiritual "enlightenment". A career highlight.
Highlights: "Nothing Really Matters", ... read more
"Erotica" proved to be a risky move that didn't quite pay off, but if there's one good thing Madonna is good at, it's damage control. "Bedtime Stories" embraces contemporary R&B to once again explore romance but in a much more toned-down version than her previous album. Indeed, "Bedtime Stories" might actually be a little too safe, but at the very least it contains plenty of enjoyable songs at the heart of its inoffensive romanticism.
Making an ode to sex through icy electronica—and presenting it as detached, sinister, even problematic—is a brilliant idea, but that doesn't excuse the lack of good tracks here. "Erotica" contains plenty of memorable lyrics but they're surrounded by anonymous backings and hookless melodies that may contribute towards the overall atmosphere but make the album difficult to actually enjoy.