Sound ‘Round: Miranda Lambert / EMA

What doesn’t kill them only makes them blonder

Miranda Lambert – Platinum (RCA Nashville)

Miranda Lambert - PlatinumEvery bit the feminist-as-wife doctrine Beyoncé is, but every bit in love with the kind of economical song structure Beyoncé averted, her fifth album is a brilliant culmination. Bestowed with an audacious title which alludes to superstardom and salon appointments, no Nashville act has been this perceptive, funny and sanguine since Brad Paisley waxed poetic about Obama. But where Paisley occasionally succumbs to the temptations of keg stands and John Deere, Lambert is solely focused on female empowerment, self-image woes and equal say in relationships. She’s explored such themes previously throughout her discography, but she’s no longer brandishing a shotgun to defend herself. Instead, she’s all sass and smarts: eviscerating society’s standards of femininity, telling lustful boys to keep their hands off, boozing with Carrie Underwood, lamenting teen pregnancy and parodying the reckless myopia of youth. Her sharpest moments of wit concern her marriage to Blake Shelton, such as the open letter to Mrs. Elvis Presley. “You and me share a unique position / Married to a man who’s married to attention,” she sings. Hubby is addressed once more, albeit more directly, on a line which meshes Lambert’s every-woman charm with her gunpowder and lead tenacity. “I love my apron, but I ain’t yo mama!” A perfect summation. GRADE: A+

Key Tracks: Bathroom Sink” / “Platinum” / “Priscilla

EMA – The Future’s Void (Matador)

EMA - the future's voidShe was irksome three years ago when posing as a martyr for Midwestern apathy – hating your South Dakota birthplace doesn’t make you an individual. She’s still irksome on this busier, noisier follow-up which takes exception with the blogosphere-as-paparazzi and a culture overrun with selfies – a moral imperative Instagram is not. Nevertheless, her musical growth is impressive. Gone are the rudimentary trappings of her once-confessional austerity. Here, she flexes her voice in ways tranquil and throaty, throwing it with abandon against buzz saw guitars and synths bubbly, fussy and exact. Though her subject matter is suspect, the songwriting has turned from scattershot and undeveloped to terse and taut. Her worthiest line comes on her worthiest song – this one about a boy in sheep’s clothing: “He’s gonna act just like a feminist / but leave it up for you to prove.” That low-life lives in the big bad city. Creepers creep everywhere, not just South Dakota. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: So Blonde”/ “Cthulu” / “Satellites

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