Summer Walker, "Still Over It" (Interscope)
Her casually devastating sophomore record is Walker's second excellent album in a row and very much in the spirit of the great Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans albums of the mid-to-late 1990s.
It's about her now-dissolved relationship with the producer London on da Track, the father of her child and, paradoxically, a producer on several of the album's songs.
Walker trains in on him with unwavering disdain. "Long as you got your cars and toys to drive, I should've known I couldn't get your time," she sings on the bracing "Session 33." On "Throw It Away," she distills the relationship's collapse into an incredible little quatrain: "We reached a ceiling/ I had a feeling/ From the beginning/ Must be the ending."
Walker is an astutely effective singer, but not because of power — rather, she often sounds as if she's holding back, or a little tired. The gap between the thickness of her feeling and her ever so slightly distracted vocals is gutting. It's the sound of two eyes rolling.
There is an outside antagonist in Walker's narrative, too, another woman who interfered with her relationship. She addresses her directly on the taunting album opener "Bitter": "Just because you let him smash, that don't mean he ever knew you/Just ' cause y'all got a past, that don't mean you got a future."
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times
Sting, "The Bridge" (A&M)
Sting's new album often harks back to the jazz-folk-Celtic-pop hybrids he forged on his first solo albums in the 1980s. One song, "Harmony Road," even features a saxophone solo from Branford Marsalis, who was central to Sting's early solo records.
Many of the new songs lean toward parable and metaphor, but not "Loving You," a husband's confrontation with the cheating wife he still loves: "We made vows inside the church to forgive each other's sins," he sings. "But there are things I have to endure like the smell of another man's skin."
JON PARELES, New York Times
Tom Morello, "The Atlas Underground Flood"
Blue Rodeo, "Many a Mile"