Updated: October 11, 2013 6:08AM
Sheryl Crow, “Feels Like Home”
This new and ultra-tuneful collection refocuses the singer on the basics: big-riffed barnburners and fist-pumping drinking songs like “Shotgun” and “Drinking” that sound geared to rouse crowds along the state fair circuit. Maturity suits Crow lyrically on fine country ballads like “Waterproof Mascara” and “Stay At Home Mother” that provide a deft look at the quiet dilemmas of middle age. That’s doesn’t mean she’s not above taking swipes at Millennials: “What everybody used to call a freak show/well, now we call reality TV,” she sings. “Anything you can think of has all been done before.” Are you listening Miley?
“Fuse,” Keith Urban
The country hitmaker and “American Idol” judge is back with a bold offering. Plenty of guitar- and banjo-driven country rock, coupled with stripped-bare ballads, make for a powerful one-two punch.
Nine Inch Nails, “Hesitation Marks”
Retiring and now resurrecting this brand-name banner does not mean Trent Reznor is kicking back after a five-year absence. This is an epic return but peeled back to present nothing but simple rhythms infused with flashes of compressed guitars and metallic synthesizers. The landscape is Reznor’s most expansive, most likely due to the aid of A-list avant-rock collaborators like Adrian Belew (King Crimson) and Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), among others. Besides some obvious expectations, there is also a plunge into hard-driving power-pop (“Everything”) that is so front-loaded with guitar, it sounds on the verge of toppling. Reznor no longer sounds like the music is an excuse to expose his battle scars, but instead is crafting these songs as inspiration.