Kesha – Photo: Olivia Bee / Courtesy of RCA Records
Whenever it came out and whatever form it took, Kesha’s third album was always going to be cause for some celebration. It would be next to impossible to divorce Rainbow (★★★★) from Kesha’s ongoing legal battle with Dr. Luke. Her lawsuit over alleged abuse and his subsequent defamation countersuit, by all accounts personally harrowing, constrained her from releasing new music while she was embroiled in it. While Kesha’s legal fight is sadly not behind her yet, her first new release in five years does represent a sort of personal victory, and she makes it clear that she sees it that way.
On Rainbow, Kesha is keen to show us that she is still the defiant artist we saw brushing her teeth with whiskey in 2010. If Rainbow, which maintains the fun, indulgent pop ethos of Kesha’s first two albums, can be said to have one stand-out moment, it would have to be “Praying,” the single that exploded across various platforms and announced the artist’s return to recording.
But there is plenty to love about the rest of the album, which features collaborations with Eagles of Death Metal and Dolly Parton, and strikes a rebellious tone. This time, Kesha’s pop is tinged with country undertones that are usually subtle but noticeable, but come to the forefront on her cover of “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You),” although Parton’s contribution certainly doesn’t hurt. Between the stoner country of “Spaceship,” the empowerment anthem “Women,” and a song about Godzilla stealing her French fries, Kesha is back in full form.
“Don’t let the bastards get you down” might be a tired sentiment coming from another artist, but when it’s Kesha singing it, it takes on a certain heft. Obviously, nobody has to like Rainbow to be happy that it has finally arrived, but fortunately, with its sincerity and moments of pure joyful silliness, it’s an album that dares us not to enjoy it on some level. Even during its low points, it’s full of signs of a deeper maturity, and a strong sense of self. Rainbow may not be the sheer perfection that we might have hoped for, but it is a comeback Kesha can be proud of.
Over thirty years since she struck out on her own and began topping charts as a solo artist, it would be fair to wonder what Alison Moyet can still offer as an artist. Quite a lot, it turns out, if Other (★★★★) is anything to go by. Throughout her latest album, Moyet shows a willingness to experiment and expand her repertoire while preserving the rich vocals and knack for crafting interesting, complex, multilayered pop that have consistently marked her career.
Other wavers almost seamlessly between moments of intense drama and a detached, sulky ambience that almost slinks into the background. “I Germinate” is a sprawling, spacey opener that tellingly announces a beginning and arrival. “April 10th,” meanwhile, is a hypnotic, entrancing diversion into spoken word that is as listenable as any of the other tracks.
Lyrically, Moyet remains strong, providing both clever turns of phrase and heartfelt lines, such as those she brings to “The Rarest Birds,” her elegy to Brighton, England and its vibrant LGBTQ community. It’s a touching, if slightly maudlin, ode to a not-insignificant part of her fanbase, not to mention an interesting thematic nod to the otherness that Moyet has long felt a kinship with.
Other has a sound and an energy that span Moyet’s career. The synths of “Reassuring Pinches” and “Happy Giddy” nod towards her Yazoo years and her early solo career, while “The English U” has a warm, distinctly Essex-like feeling to it. Despite these callbacks, Other has a uniqueness and, even, a certain timeless quality to it, all drawn together by Moyet’s rich contralto. What emerges is possibly some of her strongest work yet, an album that is recognizably Moyet’s yet feels completely contemporary and unlike anything we’ve heard from her so far. Far from a former pop icon trying to recapture past glory, the Alison Moyet we hear on Other is every bit as sharp, passionate, and clever as we have come to expect.
Both Other and Rainbow are available now for purchase via Amazon.com and iTunes, and through streaming services.
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