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You might not expect the next great indie hero to arise from Norway, but Evan Johanson - performing under the moniker Magnet - sounds like the real thing. A true romantic, his dreamy pop landscapes build upon hypnotic, delicious melodies and the most appealing high voice since Thom Yorke.
He already made waves with his 2003 debut On Your Side, but he's come into his own with The Tourniquet. Virtually a one-man show with some occasional instrumental help, the album flows organically between the gently rolling country feel of "Duracellia" and the swirling pop of "The Pacemaker" and "Fall at Your Feet," which sound like a less selfconscious Coldplay.
Adeptly mixing some modern electronica elements with traditional acoustic guitar and piano, Johanson's enchanting music throws a wide net and entraps the listener in its melancholy web. The waltz-tempoed rocker "Blow By Blow" spices things up with a more ominous, powerful sound, but still integrates itself into the whole without sounding jarring.
Despite a slight misstep with the reggae-tinged "All You Ask", The Torniquet holds together remarkably well, and heralds the arrival of a major new talent. The only reason it didn't make my 2005 Top Ten list is that I buried it in the pile after reading he was from Norway. Now I know better.
Have a Nice Day
Right after rule #32 in the "Rock Critics' Handbook" - "Each new Rolling Stones album must be touted as their best since Some Girls - rule #33 is "Never write anything positive about Bon Jovi".
And surely, the much maligned practioners of anthemic metal lite have given plenty of reasons for critics to stick to that rule over the years, despite selling millions of records and performing sold out shows around the world. But Bon Jovi's ninth studio release Have A Nice Day can't be easily dismissed. Once the band gets the title track off their chests - another one of those generic, fist-pumping declarations of defiancy that's a variation on every good Eric Burdon and the Animals song ever made - they've created a surprisingly cohesive and mature collection of contemporary rock.
Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and friends still writes grade B anthems for the American working class, but they now temper the bombast with a modicum of restraint, and an attempt to branch out musically.
Their patented "big sound" arena rock takes a back seat to the endearing power pop of "Who Says You Can't Go Home" and the moving "Bells of Freedom." While some songs have their share of awkward lyrical moments, the driving ensemble sound led by Sambora's multi-tracked guitar make up for it. Bon Jovi music still goes down a little too easy, but at least on Have A Nice Day, there's no bad aftertaste.
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