Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Album reviews: Can Chris Brown handle a double album?

Chris Brown, Bully, and Whitney Rose.

Chris Brown’s new double CD "Heartbreak on a Full Moon."
Chris Brown’s new double CD "Heartbreak on a Full Moon."Read moreRCA

Chris Brown
Heartbreak on a Full Moon
(RCA ***)

Chris Brown is too much. Quite literally, across the expanse of his two-CD, 45-song, nearly three-hour eighth solo album, the R&B and EDM vocalist is going for deluge and dare. The news  is that, for the most part, Brown's Heartbreak works as a whole. That's tough for a guy who is not necessarily a producer. It's harder still considering his wealth of guests (not too many, though, brave in this feature-conscious game), and his dueling subject matters: nasty sex, revenge, depression, need.

There's much of Brown's personal life to consider going into Heartbreak (google "Chris Brown," "controversy"), yet you don't need TMZ to appreciate/adore the vocalist who creamily attacks the yearning romanticism of "Nowhere," the sorrowful "Enemy," and the almost meditative bust-up tune "Hurt the Same." On "Everybody Knows" and "Privacy," Brown's aching tenor pleads for time away from prying eyes in a fashion that's both damnably demanding and woefully tearful. On the wifty, drifting space-soul of "Even," an AutoTuned Brown is joined on vocals by the song's Mount Airy songwriter, Julian Blake, with but a smidge of Michael Jackson's "Remember the Night" to guide their way. Is there silly, funky, raunchy sex stuff included? Indeed. "Roses," "Pills and Automobiles," "Questions," and his cocktail party soulful, "Juicy Booty" with equally provocative singer-personalities Jhené Aiko and R. Kelly take care of the dirty talk. Brown — like R. Kelly, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye before him — will always be torn by the battle of the spiritual, the sexual, and the soulful. Here's hoping, as on Heartbreak on a Full Moon, that he continues to find that happy balance. — A.D. Amorosi

(SubPop ***)

Before founding Bully, guitarist and songwriter Alicia Bognanno interned at Chicago's Electrical Audio Studio for Steve Albini, the noteworthy alternative rock engineer who worked with such 1990s heavy hitters as Nirvana and the Pixies. That connection is germane because the Nashville band specialize in a rugged, direct rock sound whose buzzing guitars consciously connect back to the grunge era. After establishing itself with 2015's Feels Like on the Columbia-affiliated Startime label, the band has moved on to release the top-flight new Losing on SubPop, the Seattle label that was once home to many of the bands that have shaped Bognanno's writing. Brawny, bruising songs like "Kills to be Resistant" and "Not the Way" pack an immediate, personal punch and eschew too-cool-for-school disengagement as Bognanno works herself into righteous rages that are sometimes directed outward and sometimes at herself. An impressive second-album step forward. Bully for Bully. — Dan DeLuca

Bully play the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St. at 8 p.m. Tuesday with openers Aye Nako. $15.

Whitney Rose
Rule 62
(Six Shooter/Thirty Tigers ***1/2)

For her new album, Whitney Rose has teamed again with Mavericks frontman Raul Malo, who coproduced the set, sings harmonies, and plays on every track (along with Mavericks drummer Paul Deakin). It's an arrangement that worked out terrifically on her last full-length album, Heartbreaker of the Year, and it does so again on Rule 62.

This may be what the Mavericks would sound like if fronted by a woman (though one without Malo's Orbisonesque lung power) – retro-tinged country and pop that's stylish and full-bodied. But make no mistake: Rose continues to forge her own identity. The Canadian wrote nine of the 11 songs, and they're first-rate.

The country shuffle "I Don't Want Half (I Just Want Out)" and the searing rocker "Time to Cry" bookend the album with bristling, take-no-guff attitude, while "You Never Cross My Mind" and "Tied to the Wheel" are steeped in melancholy. "Better to My Baby" evokes the Ronettes, a 1960s salute shared by "Can't Stop Shakin'," which lays down a seductive, sax-punctuated groove that conjures images of go-go dancers. And "Trucker's Funeral," with its "Gentle on My Mind" lope, showcases Rose's gift for classic country storytelling: "If you go to a trucker's funeral, be prepared for anything." —Nick Cristiano