Here’s our weekly wrap up of this week’s notable albums and singles, and there’s something here for everyone.

Bruno Mars: “24K Magic”

It’s been four years since Bruno Mars dropped Unorthodox Jukebox, *but he hasn’t exactly been out of the spotlight — his mega-hit “Uptown Funk” garnered the singer/songwriter two Grammys and the song was planted at No. 1 for 14 weeks (the second-longest run of a single at the top of the charts). He also worked with Adele (“All I Ask”) and made not one, but two, Super Bowl appearances. Now, with the title track to his upcoming album (XXIVk Magic), Mars doesn’t stray far from the fun and funky grooves of “Uptown Funk.” Delivering the same contagious, celebratory party vibe this new slice is less about freeing yourself on a Saturday night than it is of reveling in the finer things in life like jetting off to Vegas on a private plane and partying poolside with a bevy of beauties. “24K Magic” delivers more of Mars’ magical musical fairy dust, which does indeed seem to be spun of gold. *–Vickie Gilmer

Alicia Keys: “Here”

For this latest teaser from her forthcoming album Here, Alicia Keys tackles an unusual R&B topic: blended families. She reassures the child of her husband that a forthcoming baby won’t lesser her love for them all, and sings over a sprightly acoustic guitar melody that sounds reminiscent of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am.” Guest A$AP Rocky adds to the track’s unique nature by singing instead of rapping, a method he first employed on his 2015 single “L$D.” –Mosi Reeves

littleseeds-coverShovels & Rope, Little Seeds

The married South Carolina Americana couple have their gleefully morbid side: “Botched Execution,”  the chorus of which provides their road-obsessed fifth album’s title, is the first-person tale of a guy who breaks out of prison and robs banks on the lam with a body in the closet. An open casket figures in the initially lullaby-like “Johnny Come Outside,” and the album gets dirgier as it goes. The duo’s not scared of guitar squeals or full harmonies, though. “Buffalo Nickel” could almost pass for a goth White Stripes while “Invisible Man” starts off like Elton John circa Honky Chateau. –Chuck Eddy

gaga-joanne-album-coverLady Gaga: “Million Reasons”

She may be best known for her more bombastic traits, but with “Million Reasons” Lady G takes it down — way down. From the somber opening piano, Lady Gaga pleads to find one valid reason to stay when she’s got “a million reasons to let you go.” If the track is any indication of what the rest of the upcoming Joanne will sound like, it’s a pretty sure bet that the time she spent in Nashville working with star songwriter Hillary Lindsey (who co-wrote “Million Reasons”) will result in plenty of tears flowing into those beers. –Vickie Gilmer

green-day-revolution-radioGreen Day, *Revolution Radio *

Boasting a near-perfect balance of crashing guitars and thoughtful lyrics, Radio Revolution will certainly go down as one of the most gripping albums of Green Day’s career. Its numerous references to gun violence, mass media and teen restlessness make it their most-message driven since 2004’s American Idiot and darkest since Insomniac, released in 1995. The veteran trio’s performances are nothing less than gutsy, flipping agilely between muscular alt-rock stompers (“Bang, Bang”) and sneering, buzzing punk anthems (“Revolution Radio”). Experiencing his fair share of ups and downs, including a stint in rehab in 2012-13, 44-year-old Billie Joe Armstrong’s emotionally complex vocals are as vulnerable as they are defiant. Angst still tears at his soul and “Bouncing of the Wall” is convincing proof of this. But perhaps his finest moment arrives with “Outlaws,” a haunted, John Lennon-inspired meditation on how certain wounds inflicted during youth have a way of never healing. –Justin Farrar

mary-j-blige-thick-of-it-artMary J. Blige: “Thick of It”

“Who’s gonna love you like I do?,” Mary J. Blige asks on “Thick of It.” This is her first single after she announced her separation from her husband, and the lyrics –- as well as her performance –- seem painfully autobiographical. Of course, the Queen of R&B is famed for her emotional commitment to her music, and “Thick of It” is no exception. Meanwhile, the soulful string orchestra and the ’70s soul vibe will remind Mary J. fans of her classic heartbreak cuts like “I’m Going Down” and “Be Happy.” –Mosi Reeves

*phantogram_3
*

Phantogram: Three

On their third album, the aptly named Three, moody electro-pop duo Phantogram once again deliver on the inspiration of their name — the optical illusion where two-dimensional images appear to be three-dimensional — for in a Phantogramian universe less is always more. Even after three albums, it still boggles the mind that Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter can cover so much sonic terrain, filling every space with found sounds, arrhythmic drumming, a worried bass line and of course their always-insistent vocals, that weave around each other like a modern day Apache dance. Three finds the pair fretfully picking their way through uneasy soundscapes, where death and uncertainty loom large: Not just the passing of musical inspirations Bowie and Prince, but the recent suicide of Barthel’s sister is a shadowy presence that informs many of the songs on the album. While weightier and emotionally darker than their earlier offerings, it’s not a record without hope. There is a sullen beauty in the struggle to make sense of the pain, and a nobility in their attempts to move past it. While this is anxious music for anxious times, there are moments of whimsy and hope, like on album stand-out “Barking Dog,” which is nothing so much as a Charles Bukowski poem set to music. Jaan Uhelszki

john-legend-love-me-now-artJohn Legend: “Love Me Now”

On “Love Me Now,” John Legend taps into the Caribbean island tempos that have percolated in urban pop all summer, thanks to Drake’s “One Dance” and Rihanna’s “Work.” The light rhythm mixes with stark piano keys, and sways underneath his emphatic and emotional dedication to romance. “Pulling me further, further than I’ve been before,” he sings. “I know what’s in my heart/If you ain’t mine, I’ll be torn apart.” –Mosi Reeves

norah-jones-day-breaksNorah Jones: Day Breaks

Day Breaks, *Norah Jones sixth album, had its genesis two years ago when the graceful chanteuse performed “I’ve Got to See You Again,” the Jesse Harris-penned song from her 2002 debut *Come Away With Me, at a concert honoring her label’s 75th anniversary. Accompanying her was famed saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, who played on Come Away With Me. The euphoria that she felt in the company of her jazz brethren made her determined to return to the kind of music that put her on the musical map — and spoke to her musical core. So it made sense to tap these very same jazz greats to guest on Day Breaks, an album that finds her returning to her piano, and writing the kinds of songs that conjure up visions of cold martinis, dark clubs and intimate conversations that go on all night. Not an album of standards by any means, besides covering tunes by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver and Neil Young, Jones wrote nine new songs, including the dead clever “Sleeping Wild,” and the minor key throwback gem “It’s a Wonderful Time for Love.” Jaan Uhelszki

brent-cobb-shine-on-rainy-dayBrent Cobb*, Shine On Rainy Day*

Opening his debut with a laid-back ode to buddies discussing everything under the sun on the front porch — “Solving Problems,” which wonderfully echoes Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind” — Brent Cobb’s got as much soul in his singing as country. He’s from a small town in Georgia, probably the one he praises in detail, down to its snap peas and Chevron station in “South of Atlanta,” and his hobo leanings match his hazy, lazy sound. He sings twice about going broke, and turns criminally blues minded toward album’s end. Even his two rain songs in a row deliver a good ache. –Chuck Eddy

goodtimesaheadcoverGTA: Good Times Ahead

Miami’s GTA debut in style with Good Times Ahead, *an album featuring all-star collaborations with Tunji Ige, Vince Staples and Tinashe. Intro track “Illuminate” is reminiscent of Outkast in the ATLiens era before segueing to a brilliant cacophony of analog-meets-digital instrumentation. The glimmering highlight “All Caught Up” features Tinashe, a former collaborator with Schoolboy Q and DJ Mustard. The track meanders through warm pads and layered synthesis until culminating with a break closer to conclusion than the usual formulaic scenario. The takeaway: GTA have arrived to reinvent the hip-hop electronic landscape much as their forebears Outkast, but this is a whole new animal of instrumentation and production savvy. *–Sara Jayne Crow

onerepublic<em>-</em>oh<em>my</em>myOneRepublic, *Oh My My *

When OneRepublic entered the studio at the tail end of 2014 their aim was to create an album oozing with humanity, singer/songwriter Ryan Tedder says. For the quintet this means subtly tempering the high-polish electronic touches heard on previous albums while at the same time infusing their songs with touches of folk and rock. The opener “Let’s Hurt Tonight” announces the new mindset with warm, acoustic strumming and passionately soaring choruses. Even on cuts more oriented toward modern club pop, “Dream” and “Lift Me Up” included, Tedder and crew sound like a live outfit busting sweaty, pulsating grooves. Be on the lookout for a cameo from Peter Gabriel, who lends his inimitable singing and composing skills to “A.I.,” a sumptuously atmospheric slice of pop-rock. –Justin Farrar

jason-aldean-they-dont-know-album-artJason Aldean, They Don’t Know

For a supposed frat-country bro hooked on hair-metal chords and given to dissing clueless city slickers in his title track, Jason Aldean sure sings about women a lot — in almost every song here, matter of fact. He can be flirtatious, even a little risqué: Closer “When the Lights Go Out,” unlike the album’s concert-priming earlier bookend “Lights Come On,” concerns two people behind closed doors rather than an arena full. But just as often Aldean gets wistful about loves he’s lost, and three songs remember unforgettable date nights. Three others revolve around drinking — but those all involve ladies, too. –Chuck Eddy

bubba-sparxxx-the-bubba-mathis-ep-cover-300x300-1475859847Bubba Sparxxx: The Bubba Mathis EP

After a two-year hiatus, Bubba Sparxxx is back. Although he still references fast cars, women and liquor, his lyrics have matured with a newfound focus on working hard to take care of his family and avoiding being distracted by haters and social media. Similar to his last two albums, Pain Management and Made on McCosh Mill Road, his new EP is a split between country music and hip-hop. In “Y.G.M.F.U.,” he raps over an electric guitar coupled with a drum set and immediately follows with the heavy trap beat of “Handle That.” Because Sparxxx has mastered the fusion of these two diverse music genres in the past, there’s no doubt fans of each genre will enjoy this EP as much as his previous work. –Jazmyn Pratt

colbie-caillat-the-malibu-sessionsColbie Caillat: The Malibu Sessions

With her long blonde hair, lithe model’s body and sunny disposition, it’s tempting to think that this Californian golden girl has had a charmed life, what with two Grammys, a pair of platinum records and the benefit of an exalted pop lineage, with her father, Ken Caillat, the celebrated engineer who worked on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Tusk, teaching her a thing or two. But Caillat has worked hard for her successes, from singing lessons to internships, to never-ending tours. In fact, The Malibu Sessions only saw the light of day due to her determination and tenacity. Recorded three years ago at her Malibu home, her then-record company rejected it, releasing the Babyface-produced popstatic Gypsy Heart in its stead. Convinced she knew better, the musician formed PlummyLou Records to release these 11 light-as-seafoam songs. Upbeat, uncomplicated and ethereal; happy, but never sappy, like the Beach Boys before her, Caillat proves that being exactly who you are always pays off. Jaan Uhelszki

alterbridgethelastherocdcoverAlter Bridge, *The Last Hero*

After howler Myles Kennedy and fret-master Mark Tremonti took time off to pursue outside projects, Alter Bridge return with The LastHero, their first album in three years. Over 14 riff-chugging, body-slamming cuts the Florida outfit reminds listeners why they have few equals when it comes to blending alt-metal heft with hard rock melodicism. One of the band’s great assets is Kennedy’s superhuman wail, a sublime instrument that manages to sound like a cross between Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains on the sinister, lurching “The Other Side.” The title track is another stunner, showing off the group’s penchant for hulking power ballads that boast seemingly endless layers of screaming hot licks. And to hear Alter Bridge in full-out blitz mode jump to “Poison in Your Veins” is pure sonic adrenaline. –Justin Farrar

metrikMetrik: Life/Thrills

The U.K.’s Hospital Records rides a long history in progressive drum ‘n bass, with releases from London Elektricity, Danny Byrd and Nu:Logic. This community of mind-melding and class-breaking within the genre couldn’t have happened anywhere but England, where class and race divisions have historically (and continue) to divide so deeply. Ironically, electronic music united the disparate — East End warehouse parties drew society girls from High Street Kensington in their pearls, Russian royalty, Canadian tourists and Americans in equal force. The eponymous notable track “Life/Thrills” fuses aspirational vocals with instrumentation unforeseen in the genre, while “Fatso” is a well-crafted track hearkening back to the time of Paul Oakenfold’s massive progressive trance sets at Home in the late ‘90s. –Sara Jayne Crow