Winehouse, Malin score with style

Amy Winehouse

“Back to Black”

4.5 out of 5 stars

By now maybe you’ve heard of Britain’s Amy Winehouse – coming to an American music store near you March 13. In case you haven’t, I’ll clue you in before her award-winning 2006 album, “Back to Black,” finally hits the States.

Her first sold-out New York City performance attracted the seal of approval from artists like Jay-Z and Mos Def. The 5-foot-2-inch 23-year-old sassy white girl has big hair, a punkish style and the unexpected huge set of pipes that run as deep as Etta James’ last breathtaking note in “At Last.”

She’s become known for her risqu? and witty lyrics and a soulful voice that mirrors Motown-era artists. “Back to Black” is much edgier than the jazz/neo-soul turn she took with her 2003 debut album, “Frank.”

In the up-tempo, retro-infused track, “Rehab,” Winehouse stubbornly refuses to clean up her lifestyle. In “Addiction,” she prefers marijuana over sex.

Winehouse’s softer side comes into focus on tracks like “Love Is A Losing Game,” and title track, “Back to Black,” both focusing on the excruciating pains of love gone wrong. Winehouse is a ’60s girl group member gone solo who is trapped in the 21st century.

Key Tracks: “You Know I’m No Good,” “Rehab,” “Love Is A Losing Game”

-Monique Reuben, Copy Editor

Jesse Malin

“Glitter in the Gutter”

3.5 out of 5 stars

The last 15 years have been a long and somewhat sordid journey for New York City’s East Village icon Jesse Malin. He first made a name for himself as the front man for glammed-up punk revivalists D Generation, but after the band’s demise in 1999, Malin went back to the drawing board. Re-emerging in 2003, his first solo album was an acoustic-punk mix of Steve Earle and Neil Young.

His latest solo record presents a shift in sound that could be considered a return to form for Malin. It has a more commercial pop feel, partly because this album, unlike his last two, was written primarily on electric guitar.

Longtime fans of his solo work won’t be fooled by this shift; the singer-songwriter’s signature narrative writing style is still very much present along with his easily recognizable vocal delivery. Behind this are instantly catchy pop-rock melodies that should appeal to both new and returning fans. Also notable for this album is the list of guests, including Ryan Adams, Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Bruce Springsteen.

There are a lot of crappy singer-songwriters out there, but Malin definitely isn’t one of them.

Key Tracks: “Don’t Let Them Take You Down (Beautiful Day),” “Lucinda,” “Prisoners of Paradise”

-Chris Kubak, WTSR Music Director