CD reviews: 2013 Grammy winners all

Posted at 02/17/2013 1:48 PM | Updated as of 02/18/2013 10:35 AM

Let’s take on the works of artists who went home with the top three awards in the recently concluded 55th Annual Grammy Awards last February 10.

Mumford & Sons

"Babel"

Mumford & Sons

Just their second album in two years and the English folk rock band not only releases a multi-platinum follow-up to their debut but also snatches a career-cementing Album of the Year award at the Grammys.

The double whammy must come from the fine blend of classy bluegrass pickings, brisk strums on acoustic guitars and some of the most heart-breaking vocals this side of Bruce Springsteen.

Mumford and Sons tone down on the slow numbers so their new album is made memorable by the verve and aggression with which they put across edgy songs strewn with veiled Biblical allusions. The lyrics are mired in faux Christian wisdom (e. g. “Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie’; “I’m a cad but not a fraud”) but in the end, the strong instrumentation makes "Babel" a winner.

Listening to the album, serious Grammy watchers will be reminded of the Carolina Chocolate Drops whose expansive take on old-time American country and blues merited a 2010 Grammy for traditional folk album. Perhaps, old-school bluegrass is the new pit stop for weird music. Happy to be strange and retro!

Gotye

"Making Mirrors"

Gotye

“Somebody That I Used To Know,” the third track on Gotye’s latest album, won Record of The Year honors at the last Grammys. It’s a cool ballad that showcases only one facet of the Australian multi-instrumentalist’s cache of songwriting skills.

A quick listen to the full album "Making Mirrors" reveals Gotye’s mastery at “mashing-up” a web of sub-genres to come up with new songs that feel vaguely familiar and wholly enjoyable. “I Feel Better” and “In Your Light” borrow the Motown backbeat for a contemporary spin in ways better than anything Phil Collins and his ilk have done before. “Easy Way Out” is straight-laced ‘60s boy band craze even as “State of the Art” bumps wobbly dub with psychedelic paraphernalia.

It’s a smart start for a budding musical genius.

Fun.

"Some Nights"

Fun.

The indie pop band Fun. received the Best New Artist citation at the recent Grammy Awards. “We Are Young,” a cut off their sophomore album, got covered in the TV show "Glee," pushing it to a six-week reign at the top of the singles charts.

It’s a sprightly big ballad whose musicality suggests Queen and Meatloaf hobnobbing in the same room. There are echoes of Queen for Freddy Mercury’s operatic performance and Meatloaf’s producer for the widescreen cascade of catchy melodies.

On the whole, "Some Nights" is carried along by the impressive range of lead vocalist Nate Ruess. Most of the nine songs on the album are upbeat tunes. With Ruess’ energetic vocals, even those with depressing lyrics acquire a sense of hope as his voice swings from deep valleys to peaks of exhilaration.

The other members of the band put in their share of novelty to the vintage sound of progressive pop-rock. Street beat and hip hop skitter underneath the soaring orchestration of “All Alone” and “All Alright.” “It Gets Better” is fueled by electro-disco mirroring say Queen’s one-time foray into quirky dance music with “Under Pressure.”

One head-bender though: There’s hardly any guitar solo on “Some Nights”’s prog-pop odyssey. Could Fun. be the 21st century Emerson Lake & Palmer?