Music Reviews: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mumford & Sons, Laura Mvula

web - ChiliPepperRed Hot Chili Peppers :: ‘The Getaway’

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first album in five years, The Getaway, is a melancholy set, even when the rhythms accelerate. Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) sits in for Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, bringing more keyboards than usual to the mix. The Peppers’ traits are still present, from mentions of California and Flea’s deft bass lines to Anthony Keidis’ percussive lyrics and staccato vocals.

The opening arpeggio on “The Longest Wave” may have you thinking John Frusciante is back, but “new” guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (he’s been in the band for nearly a decade) ably acquits himself throughout. On the sunnier side, Elton John’s piano enhances “Sick Love,” which borrows some of its melody from his “Bennie and the Jets,” while “Dark Necessities,” the album’s first single, could be late-‘80s Duran Duran and “Go Robot” is RHCP in Nile Rodgers/Daft Punk territory.

Some muscular tunes arrive toward the end — a Hendrix-like guitar riff animates “Detroit,” while gentler interludes offer a respite on the driven “This Ticonderoga.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers take some chances and hold their own on The Getaway, but even in rock ’n’ roll, time gets away. (Pablo Gorondi/AP)

web - MumfordMumford & Sons :: ‘Johannesburg’

Mumford & Sons’ new five-song EP is a tonal and rhythmic departure from the band’s past three albums. Written with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Malawian group The Very Best and South African band Beatenberg, Johannesburg blends Mumford’s folk sounds with African rhythms and instruments with rich results.

If it weren’t for Marcus Mumford’s recognizable voice, Johannesburg, recorded over a two-day marathon session in South Africa last year, might not even sound like the work of the Grammy-winning British quartet. But Mumford harmonizes beautifully with Maal, who sings in his native Pulaar language as well as French. The album’s closing song, “Si Tu Veux,” is a showcase for his powerful voice and multi-lingual capabilities.

Pop sensibilities are still present; a dramatic call of drums and layered harmonies open “Fool You’ve Landed.” But the incorporation of traditional instruments like the djembe and kora (a West African harp) recalls other pop ventures into the musical heritage of distant cultures, like Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints. (Sandy Cohen/AP)

web - LauraMvulaLaura Mvula :: ‘The Dreaming Room’

Laura Mvula’s The Dreaming Room is an ambitious album full of rhythms and drama, with some songs suitable for recital halls and others for the dance floor.

The classically trained Mvula and drummer/producer Troy Miller get help from guitarists Nile Rodgers and John Scofield and the London Symphony Orchestra, among others, but the tunes rely most on her layers of rhythmic harmony and lyrics dwelling on life’s complexities. On her first effort, Sing to the Moon, Mvula sang about playing “my own damn tune”; her second album further expands on that idea.

“Overcome,” written with Rodgers, and “Phenomenal Woman,” inspired by a Maya Angelou poem, are the dance-pop bookends with sophisticated twists. Between them are the hymn-like “Show Me Love,” the Christmas carol-y “Angel” and “Bread.” While some bands aspire to “more cowbell,” several songs on The Dreaming Room are enhanced with “additional harp.” It’s that kind of album and that’s just fine. (Pablo Gorondi/AP)

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