Recordings | Sept. 25, 2014

Three albums we're listening to this month

BCait Brennan, Sept. 25, 2014.

Meghan Trainor | Title | Epic Records | 4stars

“Fancy” schmancy, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” was the real song of the summer, MeghanTrainorand it’s the reigning Billboard and iTunes #1 smash with over 52 million YouTube and Vevo views, too. While her full-length album a few months off, this four-tack EP will keep fans shake-shaking it in the meantime.

The 20-year-old from Nantucket, who got her first songwriting deal at 18, draws on influences far beyond her years, from ’50s and ’60s pop and vocals to the Soca sounds of Trinidad, and you’ll hear them all on Title. “Bass” is here in all its glory, plus three choice new songs.

The “Title” track (sorry, couldn’t resist) is brilliant, with hand-claps, uke and charm to spare, all that sweetness contrasting with Trainor’s adorably tough lyrics: “Baby, don’t call me your friend, If I hear that word again, you might never get a chance to see me naked in your bed … consider this an invitation to kiss my ass goodbye.” Seriously, don’t friendzone that bass, bro!

“Dear Future Husband” lays down the law with a list of dos and don’ts spelled out in ’60s-girl-group style that would do any diva proud. “Close Your Eyes” is an Xtina-worthy ballad with an inspirational message: “Show the world the you inside/Raise your voice and close your eyes/’Cause you’re beautiful.” Title is a beautiful and very fun interlude from an artist on the way to even greater things.

For fans of: Cher Lloyd and Charli XCX

U2 | Songs Of Innocence | Island Records | 4stars

If you have iTunes, the new U2 album magically appeared in your account as a free gift from U2Apple. But after 13 albums and 35 years, is U2 even relevant? The answer is a resounding yes: this is U2’s best album since their ’80s heyday.

As the William Blake title suggests, Songs Of Innocence finds Bono and company reflecting on growing up in Dublin, and the family, friends and musical heroes that shaped their lives. Produced by Danger Mouse, with Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence and the Machine) and others, the album harnesses U2’s arena sound and gives it a contemporary makeover.

The opener, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone),” lionizes the late, great punk rock frontman and carries a potent message about musical inspiration. And they do sound inspired, as on “Volcano” and “Raised By Wolves,” there’s a sense of urgency that’s been long absent from their studio work.

There’s no whitewashing the past here; “Cedarwood Road” revisits Bono’s old home street and finds it a war zone, while “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” takes aim at the Catholic Church child abuse scandal.

The album ends with “The Troubles,” a murky, emotionally complex ballad featuring guest vocals from Lykke Li. If it feels like a story ending in the middle, it is: the band promises a follow-up, Songs Of Experience, is on the way.

For fans of: OneRepublic, The Killers and Maroon 5

Paloma Faith | A Perfect Contradiction | Sony Music | 3halfstars

British pop-soul diva Paloma Faith has yet to break through in the US, but she’s certified PalomaFaithplatinum at home. With its combination of deep dance grooves, A-list guest stars and Faith’s own irresistible talent, A Perfect Contradiction is likely to win her plenty of fans here, too.

Faith covers a lot of ground, all of it fun. “Can’t Rely On You” is a funky hip-shaker in the Stax/Motown vein, produced and co-written by Pharrell Williams. “Mouth To Mouth” has the sort of classic disco vibe that will have you running for the roller rink, the sort of thing Vicki Sue Robinson would have sung once upon a time.

Faith often gets tagged as “eccentric” or “retro,” but she’s got a gutsy performance style and a powerful set of pipes. On the smash UK single “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” she knocks it out of the park like few of her contemporaries would even dare, while on “Love Only Leaves You Lonely” she takes it down to a slow-burn, intimate level. You’ve been there, and she knows, baby. She knows.

Faith puts on a clinic in old-school ’60s and ’70s soul on “Trouble With My Baby,” “Other Woman” and “Taste My Own Tears.” And, in “It’s The Not Knowing” she cries, “We haven’t said it but I know it, so hold me one last time before you go.” Vulnerable and fearless, A Perfect Contradiction gives listeners plenty of great songs to remember.

For fans of: Adele and Amy Winehouse