Taylor Swift


Taylor Swift’s all-out move into pop music on her fifth album, “1989,” is the sound of a young artist who has gradually evolved from a teenager obsessed with boys and journal writing into a young woman embracing life in New York and stepping to a new beat.

“Shake It Off,” her first single, was a fun introduction to the new Swift sound. But it’s the most lighthearted track on “1989,” which sweeps from the rocking confrontation of “Bad Blood” to the delicate “This Love” to the Lana Del Ray retro-noir of “Wildest Dreams.” Taylor still flirts playfully at times, as on “How You Get the Girl,” but more often she comes off as more guarded, more apprehensive and more realistic in her views on relationships.

Heavy on bass, drum loops and electronic sounds and using harmonic vocals as a form of rhythm, Swift mixes beats and melody in search of a classic pop model of her own. She ignores modern pop’s reliance on guest stars to explore the many ways she can use her own voice. At times she clips her words sharply against the beats, while still occasionally speaking words to establish intimacy. But she also opens and sings like she rarely has.

A couple of songs come off as generic exercises, especially the arrangement of “I Know Places.” Still, “1989” is another triumph for Swift—not a precocious achievement, as in her early years, but a mature reflection of where she is now, in her life and in her artistry.

Michael McCall

The Associated Press


Following his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, Yusuf, aka 1970s music star Cat Stevens, has a new album. “Tell ’Em I’m Gone,” which follows 2006’s “An Other Cup,” is only the second album of newly recorded songs Yusuf has released since he founded a Muslim school near his native London and dropped out of pop music in the late 1970s.

“An Other Cup” showed hints of such Cat Stevens era hits as “Peace Train,” “Wild World” and “Moonshadow.” “Tell ’Em I’m Gone” is largely something else — a blues-rock- and rhythm-and-blues-oriented homage to Yusuf’s American music inspirations. Harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite and singer-guitarist Richard Thompson provide stellar accompaniment.

Working with producer Rick Rubin, who produced six of the album’s 10 songs, Yusuf performs Louisiana standard “You Are My Sunshine” as an urgent, minor-key blues number. Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” another Rubin production, is also transformed into a dark blues piece, much more serious than Reed’s sly, classic recording.

Singing Edgar Winter’s piano-based ballad, “Dying to Live,” Yusuf finds earnest sentiment of the kind heard in the lyrics of his own classics. That longing shows up again in one of the album’s five new Yusuf originals, the Paul Simon-like “Cat & the Dog Trap.” “Cat’s in a cage, chained to a stone ... dreams of home,” he sings.

With this surprising new album and his first U.S. tour in 35 years scheduled for December, Yusuf is poised for a return, however brief it may be, to the mainstream.

John Wirt