I don’t exactly follow Fifth Harmony, and I missed the controversy surrounding Camila Cabello’s split with the group. Hope I’m not supposed to hate her because this is just great pop—glossy but not oversaturated—“All These Years” and “Real Friends” are even borderline minimal. And Cabello is a compelling, versatile performer worth bringing out in the mix. She lazily lurches through the hit single “Havana,” and belts it out on the Skrillex-produced wonky reggaeton “She Wants Control,” but also turns her voice into something thin and weird in the middle of the love-is-the-drug epic “Never Be the Same,” and drops an arresting wordless vocal break on heartache ballad “Consequences.” None of thes 11 songs on Camila hits the four-minute mark, and the album cruises by, especially on the sunny “Inside Out” and the nimble “Into It.” The force is strong with this one.
Blue Madonna (Interscope)
BØRNS’ 2015 single “Electric Love” received a gushing ’gram from Princess Swift, and pretty soon the dude from western Michigan was sponsored by Gucci, profiled in Vogue and appointed Men’s Fashion Week ambassador. And lest we lose sight, his music was not bad! Blue Madonna sounds like a smash, full of glittering melodies and charismatic falsetto, and tracks like the glammy, Roxy-ish “Faded Heart” are kind of irresistibly rousing. But the general effect becomes one of fashionable poses from a bankable property, a mainstream millennial update of Rufus Wainwright—which is to say saner and more boring. By the time the peacock plays the jilted lover, complaining about his girl “throwing me that shade like I’m not cool enough,” he’s shown himself to be nothing but cool. BØRNS plays the Anthem in D.C. on February 13.
FM-2030 (Captured Tracks)
Reptaliens’ Cole and Bambi Browning are in love y’all. They met, got married and started recording within six months, and Cole’s testaments to their ego-melting oneness are endearing: “Sometimes I’ll come home from work and she’ll have a masterpiece finished and perfectly crafted,” though none of the songs “really seem completely Bambi’s or mine. We do everything together.” Awww. FM-2030 certainly sounds like an idyllic home project, recorded as slanted early-morning sunbeams light up the teakettle steam. Bambi’s lilting voice suits the vaguely tropical indie soft rock, light on guitars and heavy on piano and cheesy-cute keyboards. Reptaliens play the National in Richmond on February 18.
The Official Body (FatCat)
The cover of The Official Body is an alligator floating on amazingly clear water, its shadow appearing on the lagoon floor. Except it’s not a lagoon, it’s a pool, and the alligator is inflatable. The menacing yet mirthful image seems apt for Shopping. The London trio whips up killer dancepunk grooves that recall Gang of Four and ESG, and The Official Body deals in heavy themes. But there’s a positivity that cuts through, even when drummer Andrew Milk takes the mic, dourly intoning one-note melodies on “The Hype” and “Discover.” (It must be added that he is a slamming drummer, and when he speeds up on “Overtime” and “My Dad’s a Dancer,” it can’t be called a mistake—it’s awesome.) Guitarist Rachel Aggs is the far more engaging and appealing singer, her affable bark grounding “Asking for a Friend” and “New Values.” Check out Shopping at D.C.’s Union Stage on March 9.