NEW YORK, Jan 17, (AP): If the latest photos from Justin Timberlake’s new album campaign don’t relay the message that he’s into nature and the woods, his first listening for the project drove the point home.
Tuesday’s event in New York City to debut “Man of the Woods” was decorated with bushes and trees, while ants coated in black garlic and rose oil and grasshoppers were served.
But don’t get too concerned about the pop star switching gears, the album — much like the lead dance single — sticks to Timberlake’s musical persona, as upbeat pop, R&B and electronic tracks make up the collection of 16 songs.
Music industry insiders, members of the press and American Express cardholders — the company put on the event and will hold another on Wednesday — listened the full album as red lights beamed in the large space, which Timberlake helped design.
“I’m not going to go all Ray LaMontagne,” Timberlake said at the listening, jokingly referring to the singer-songwriter known for his rock and folk sound.
He called “Man of the Woods” a “personal album” and said the record is a tribute to his 2-year-old son, Silas, a name that means “living in the woods.”
“That’s where I got the idea,” said Timberlake, who attended the event with his actress-wife, Jessica Biel, as well as family and friends he said had flown into town to support him.
Silas’ voice appears on the album’s closing track, “Young Man”; Alicia Keys is on the rootsy “Morning Light”; and Chris Stapleton appears on “Say Something,” which seemed to be a crowd favorite at the event.
Moon Taxi, “Let the Record Play” (RCA)
The Nashville-based quintet Moon Taxi has been steadily gaining a wider following over the past decade and we’re happy for them. But the cost, it now becomes clear, has been too high.
“Let the Record Play,” the band’s 10-track fifth album, will be hard to take for some fans as Moon Taxi becomes progressively blander with each passing year.
Their sound has flattened out, with lyrics that have grown mushy and lack bite. Their transformation into a lite version of Kings of Leon is almost complete.
The issue isn’t their musicianship, which remains tight, intricate and top-notch. Nor does it have to do with Moon Taxi’s blend of indie-prog rock, led by Trevor Terndrup’s special voice. It’s just that “Let the Record Play” would be a triumph for any other band. For Moon Taxi it’s just treading water.
Any urgency, any sense of experimentation is mostly gone. This may be what happens when you combine a big record deal — the band is newly signed to RCA — with the payday that comes when Moon Taxi songs get used in commercials from BMW to McDonald’s.
“Hey, hey, hey/Now we’re looking good/Now we’re looking good as gold,” go the taunting lyrics in one new song.
Moon Taxi used to deal with social issues — “All the Rage” from the brilliant 2012 album “Cabaret” condemned extremism — and played with different sounds, as in “The New Black” from 2013.
On the new album, they lean on sunny and shimmery sounds, with only a few songs at the end — particularly the excellent “Trouble” — making any sort of impression.
And the closest they get to social consciousness is on “Two High,” a half-hearted attempt to resist and connect people on a grass-roots level (“We can walk together/With our hands up in the sky”). It’s sort of fitting for this album that that’s also the gesture for surrender.